After a special closed door meeting at city hall Tuesday, the Toronto Transit Commission board voted 5-4 in favour of firing general manager Gary Webster, who has worked for the TTC for more than three decades.
TTC general manager Gary Webster will no longer serve the largest transit agency in Canada. After a 5-4 vote in favour to relieve Webster of his duties, it was described as “without just cause.” The vote comes about two weeks after Webster did not defend Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s transit plan.
Prior to the meeting, Webster sat in Committee Room 2 waiting for his judgment by a group of councillors. Photographers immediately swarmed Webster to capture photographs of him, in which he muttered to TTC spokesperson Brad Ross, “I can’t wait to get this meeting started.”
City Councillors Josh Matlow and Joe Mihevc look on as TTC General Manager Gary Webster waits for the TTC committee meeting to begin.
Councillors Vincent Crisanti, Frank Di Giorgio, Norm Kelly, Denzil Minnan-Wong, and Cesar Palacio voted in favour of getting rid of Webster, who will now receive a $500,000 severance package for his dismissal. TTC Chair Karen Stintz, TTC Vice-Chair Peter Milczyn, Councillors John Parker and Maria Augimeri voted against the decision.
“You’re sending a message that leadership doesn’t count. You're kicking success out the door,” said Councillor Augimeri before the votes were casted. “You're throwing away success with both hands. What are you thinking?” She added that this administration is abusing its power by suppressing dissension.
During a scrum shortly before the committee meeting began, Councillor John Parker told reporters that he can’t imagine he would have signed the petition to hold Tuesday’s special meeting. “All I know is that a meeting was called to deal with personnel matters. I haven’t been told what particular personnel matters anyone has in mind.”
TTC Chair Karen Stintz (R) speaking with TTC spokesperson Brad Ross at city hall.
When asked if the TTC is better without Webster, Parker responded that he can’t imagine it would be.
“I can’t find fault with any of the work Gary has done,” explained Parker. “I am impressed with the vision he has for the future, with the plans he has for improving the TTC and if it were up to me, I want to see him in place to continue with that work.”
City Councillor Joe Mihevc told reporters during the in-camera meeting that transit riders will see drastic change after Webster is gone because he is responsible for a wide variety of tasks, such as scheduling, employees and others.
City Councillor Joe Mihevc talks to reporters at city hall during in-camera meetings.
“If you have a good chief general manager as we have, you see the kinds of service improvements gradual every year for the last several years [and] we have seen that,” said Mihevc during a scrum. “It’s been rewarded by increased ridership, by more service out there on the streets. Is it where we want it to go? No. Do we have more work to do? Obviously yes. But I think this will be a kick in the head to the system.”
TTC General Manager Gary Webster speaks with TTC spokesperson Brad Ross at city hall.
On Tuesday evening, the Mayor’s Office issued a statement to the media where he said that he supported the commission’s decision. Ford did, however, acknowledge Webster’s service, successes and lists of accomplishment during his tenure at the TTC.
In the end, the mayor stated that the TTC needs to move forward and the commissioners, councillors and transit riders tell him this.
“The TTC was once recognized worldwide as an example of public transit excellence,” said Ford. “It's time for the TTC to modernize, to review its mission and mandate, to revisit its structure and move forward with a vision that will serve Toronto to the end of this century and sets an example for the world to follow.”
“The time is right for a new leader to take the reins at TTC and lead the organization through this period of major change.”
TTC Deputy Chief General Manager Andy Byford will perform Webster’s duties until the commission finds a permanent replacement.