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Lastman wants more control over TTC

Integrating operations with city seen as a way to reduce expenses

Municipal Affairs Reporter
Wednesday, April 19, 2000

Mayor Mel Lastman is looking at ways to rein in the TTC, a cost-cutting move that could be the first step in the city taking a more direct hold over the other 114 agencies, boards and commissions that now operate semi-autonomously.

At the mayor’s behest, city council ordered the powerful policy and finance committee yesterday to prepare a report on how a number of administrative functions now being carried out by the Toronto Transit Commission could be integrated with the city’s central operations.

Deputy mayor Case Ootes has already prepared a report for the mayor on the future of the such bodies. That report has not been made public, but it is understood to contain a number of proposals aimed at strengthening council control over numerous offshoots of the municipal government.

Those groups include such things as the Hummingbird Centre, the library board and Toronto Economic Development Corp., the agency that handles the city’s properties.

Although TTC riders would not be directly affected by any suggested changes, Mr. Lastman hopes that the report will point to ways that the city-subsidized TTC could save money. “This is going to help reduce costs,” Mr. Lastman told the committee as it considered the TTC’s operating budget.

Despite the pleas of TTC chairman Howard Moscoe to keep the transit subsidy at $148.9-million, the same as last year, the committee accepted a recommendation from the council’s budget committee that it be cut to $144.3-million.

The committee report, which will be considered by council before the TTC’s next budget, will mark a sea change for the agency, which has always functioned with a great deal of independence.

Many councillors think that there is no longer a good reason for the TTC to be a separate agency and that it should be operated as a department of city government, as is the case with the transit system in Ottawa-Carleton.

But TTC vice-chairman Rob Davis said the city’s taking take too close an interest in the day-to-day business of the TTC would be pointless. He raised the spectre of interminable council debates on the location of bus stops.

“If you thought council meetings were long now, just wait until the TTC becomes a department of the city,” he said in an interview.

He said, however, that integrating some TTC functions, such as human resources and payroll, with the city operations “might not be a bad idea… . Sure, there’s money to be saved there. But you don’t have to become a department of the city in order to share those internal services.”

On the other hand, Mr. Moscoe said that it might be acceptable for the TTC to become a city department. “We might be better off as a department of the city. As a department of the city, they wouldn’t abandon us.”