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TTC chief steps down

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TORONTO STAR FILE

TTC chief general manager Rick Ducharme tenders his resignation in the middle of a labour dispute. He says his main reason for quitting is the �political interference� from commission members.

General manager, Rick Ducharme, sick of ‘political interference’

Union backs decision, hopes to renew talks with successor

Jun. 7, 2006. 05:41 AM
KEVIN MCGRAN AND PAUL MOLONEY
STAFF REPORTERS

Sick of “political interference” from his commission overlords, Rick Ducharme quit yesterday as chief general manager of the TTC amid a labour dispute.

A special meeting of the TTC commissioners will take place today at 2 p.m. to deal with Ducharme, who asked that his resignation take effect Nov. 30, although it’s doubtful he’ll stay on that long.

The resignation throws into turmoil a TTC reeling from a wildcat strike and struggling with low worker morale. But Ducharme’s true legacy may prove to be the rebirth of the TTC as he turned around a transit authority struggling for commuters and transformed it into a viable commuter option for 700,000 riders a day. The TTC continues to grow despite its current labour troubles.

“I am sure that you will read and hear theories of why I’m leaving,” Ducharme, 58, told employees in a letter released yesterday. “The main reason behind my decision is due to political interference…. I’ve always been a straight-shooter, however, when some commission members choose to undermine my role and responsibilities then the game is over!”

Mayor David Miller said Ducharme would probably be asked to leave sooner, given his comments about being undermined by politicians.

“I think it’s obvious that when somebody tenders their resignation publicly this way, staying on in the circumstances just wouldn’t work,” Miller said.

TTC commissioner Brian Ashton said people will wonder what role union unrest had in the announcement.

“I suppose the public and our ridership � given recent events � will be asking themselves the question, did the union win?”

The union that represents Toronto transit workers said in a news release the resignation opens up the “prospect of beginning” to repair labour-management relations with Ducharme’s successor. “I know I speak for all our members in saying that a new era in labour relations is now possible at the TTC,” said Bob Kinnear, president of the 8,500-member Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113.

“Change presents opportunity and the union will respond to that opportunity,” Kinnear said. “We are more than willing to sit down with Mr. Ducharme’s successor in order to resolve long-standing problems in the relationship and take a fresh new approach at how we address future issues before they turn into conflicts.”

TTC chairman Howard Moscoe appeared to blame Ducharme for last week’s wildcat strike.

“We gave Mr. Ducharme full scope to manage labour relations. We had a wildcat strike and we almost had one (Monday),” said Moscoe, who has been involved in trying to calm the labour situation. Moscoe added that Ducharme ought to have expected politicians to be involved, given the public nature of the transit system.

“I think it’s unfortunate that he considers the involvement of the elected representatives who are accountable to the public of Toronto as political interference,” said Moscoe. “In other words, I have to wear the responsibility for any action that occurs on the TTC. The media and the public expect me to be accountable for it.”

But Councillor Jane Pitfield, who is running against Miller for mayor, said managers should be left to do their jobs.

“There are political agendas that are being pushed at the expense of what’s best for the city,” she said.

It’s believed Ducharme was not happy that the TTC commission allowed Kinnear to speak at a recent in-camera session of high-level staff and councillors. At that meeting, about a month ago, Kinnear spelled out many of the present grievances.

“It’s very appropriate, in fact it’s required, for the commission to take leadership,” said Miller, defending his commissioners’ role in the labour dispute. “I think people would be shocked if the chairman of the TTC didn’t speak to the head of the union. Not only is it not inappropriate, that’s very important. That’s part of ensuring in our system, that the system is working.”

Ducharme just recently had his contract renewed by the commission for a multi-year term at $254,000 a year. The contract has provisions that allow Ducharme to get out, said Adam Giambrone, vice-chair of the commission.

Commissioner Joe Mihevc said an interim manager would be named quickly, likely from a list of internal managers, including deputy general manager Lynn Hilborn, general manager of operations Gary Webster and general secretary Vince Rodo.

Some outsiders who may be viewed as possible permanent replacements include:

  • Gary McNeil, managing director of GO Transit � the very title held by Ducharme when he left GO for the TTC.

  • David Gunn, Ducharme’s predecessor at the TTC who left to run Amtrak but has since left that post.

Ducharme came to the Toronto Transit Commission in 1999, not long after the system had reached its lowest point. Ridership was only 390 million annually. But Ducharme squeezed all he could out of every possible bus, subway and streetcar route.

The TTC is expected to provide about 430 million rides this year.

And the service is growing. New buses are en route, including the first of 100 hybrid buses. Bus-only, and streetcar-only lanes are under construction. Provincial and federal politicians latched on to transit as an issue to the point where York University seems poised to get a subway.

“Rick Ducharme, I think, has done a terrific job both promoting and stabilizing the TTC,” said Ashton. “As a former chair, Rick was one of the best managers I worked with.”

Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, a TTC commissioner, said it was Ducharme’s decision to resign.

“The buses will roll. I don’t think the public really cares who the chair of the is TTC is. They don’t care who the general manager is. What they care about is when they come to a bus stop, there’s a bus there. The buses will be there and I think we move forward.”

WITH FILES FROM VANESSA LU




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