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Subway-car deal a 'fiasco,' Ducharme says

JEFF GRAY

The TTC’s plans to buy more than $700-million worth of subway cars from Bombardier without competition from other firms is a “fiasco,” says the transit agency’s departing chief general manager, who angrily quit this week complaining of political interference.

Rick Ducharme’s confidential resignation letter, sent little over a week after a sudden illegal strike shut down the transit system, singles out Howard Moscoe, the chairman of the Toronto Transit Commission, for interfering not only in labour relations but also in the forthcoming subway car purchase.

“Those Commissioners who were here during the subway car fiasco in which Mr. Moscoe had his own discussions with Bombardier and with Mr. Kinnear [union leader Bob Kinnear] will understand my frustration,” Mr. Ducharme writes in the letter, according to insidetoronto.com, the website of a group of community newspapers.

Over Mr. Ducharme’s objections, the commission made the controversial decision to sole-source the purchase of 234 new subway cars to Bombardier’s Thunder Bay plant, but to have the final price vetted by a third party. German firm Siemens Transportation, which said it wanted to bid on the contract, protested against the move. It says the lack of competition could cost Toronto taxpayers an extra $100-million.

Mr. Moscoe says the move is necessary to keep the Thunder Bay plant open, and to keep jobs in Canada. Previous TTC subway car purchases have also been sole-sourced to Bombardier.

Yesterday, Mr. Moscoe and the rest of the transit commission, an oversight board of nine city councillors dominated by left-leaning allies of Mayor David Miller, voted in a two-hour private meeting to ask Mr. Ducharme to vacate his office immediately.

In his blunt note to all TTC employees informing them of his decision to quit, Mr. Ducharme had said that he intended to stay on until Nov. 30.

“It would be untenable given the public nature of his resignation … to allow him to stay at the TTC,” Mr. Moscoe told reporters yesterday.

Mr. Moscoe would not say what severance or other payments Mr. Ducharme is owed. TTC commissioner Joe Mihevc said Mr. Ducharme would be paid in accordance with his $260,000-a-year salary until Nov. 30.

Mr. Ducharme told reporters yesterday that he was told he had to leave by tomorrow. He said he plans to consult a lawyer, because he believes the arrangements weren’t consistent with his contract.

The TTC boss said he is leaving because of “the antics with the union,” in which Mr. Moscoe and vice-chairman Adam Giambrone spoke with Bob Kinnear, the president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, before and after last week’s wildcat walkout.

Mr. Ducharme said those talks undermined his authority.

The seven-year veteran of the TTC’s top job also said that last Sunday, with the city on the verge of a possible second illegal TTC walkout, Mr. Moscoe urged him to revisit the shift changes that had angered some workers, telling Mr. Ducharme that he “wasn’t thinking straight.”

“There’s no way I can negotiate with the union if they are allowed to deal with the commission, the chair, the mayor, whatever,” Mr. Ducharme said. He said he blames Mr. Moscoe for the walkout.

Mr. Ducharme’s confidential resignation letter also cites two of his predecessors, saying that David Gunn and Al Leach left the TTC after conflicts with Mr. Moscoe. “I am the third victim,” he writes.

That pattern had city Councillor Jane Pitfield (Don Valley West), who is running for mayor in the Nov. 13 election, calling for Mr. Moscoe’s resignation. The city should consider appointing business people instead of politicians to run the TTC, she said.

Commissioners named the TTC’s general manager of operations, Gary Webster, as Mr. Ducharme’s temporary replacement yesterday.

Mr. Kinnear, who had accused Mr. Ducharme of not caring about TTC drivers who had been assaulted, said he was “optimistic” that Mr. Webster and the union could get relations onto a better footing.




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