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Under fire, Moscoe looks at resigning as TTC chair

He is considering a postelection move, but some councillors want him gone now


With the Toronto Transit Commission in crisis and some placing the blame at the feet of its combative chairman, Howard Moscoe, the long-time local politician said yesterday he is thinking of stepping aside. But not yet.

Editorials in two local newspapers and a handful of political opponents on council, including mayoral candidate Jane Pitfield, have called for him to step down from his post.

The calls arose after the explosive resignation this week of the TTC’s chief general manager, Rick Ducharme, who said he was driven out of his job by “political interference” from Mr. Moscoe, especially around the recent illegal strike by TTC workers.

Yesterday, Mr. Moscoe said he was at least considering giving up his post as TTC chairman after the Nov. 13 election to make way for TTC vice-chairman Adam Giambrone, who has taken on a bigger role speaking to the media since the May 29 strike that stranded more than 700,000 transit users for most of that day.

“It may be time at that time for me to hand it over to Councillor Giambrone, who has done an excellent job during this difficult period,” Mr. Moscoe told reporters yesterday.

He added that his wife is a driving force behind his considerations. “I am suggesting that the one person who counts doesn’t want me to be chair and that’s my wife,” the 66-year-old Mr. Moscoe said.

Mr. Moscoe, who has been in municipal politics since the 1970s and has signed up to run for his Eglinton-Lawrence council seat again, has also had health problems. He collapsed during a TTC meeting in 2005 when trying to get back to his seat, and was taken to hospital. Earlier, heart problems and bypass surgery kept him in hospital for much of the 2003 campaign.

After Mr. Ducharme’s accusations this week, Mayor David Miller, who effectively controls who chairs the TTC, stood by Mr. Moscoe. It is the TTC chairman’s job to intervene in the operations of the transit agency, the mayor said.

But some of Mr. Moscoe’s political opponents said his promise to consider stepping aside this fall isn’t good enough.

“The real question is, should he be chair now?” asked Denzil Minnan-Wong (Don Valley East), a critic of Mr. Moscoe and the mayor. “… He’s created so many problems that he should consider resigning now.”

Ms. Pitfield also said it is past the time for Mr. Moscoe to go. “It would have been preferable for Howard Moscoe to step down now. Because we still have a rocky road ahead of us. We still have a long list of grievances. We still have unrest.”

Bob Kinnear, president of Local 113 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, said he believed Mr. Moscoe had a right to speak with him during the crisis. And he said not all of Mr. Moscoe’s interventions had been good for labour relations: “Howard sometimes speaks first, thinks later.”

In addition to accusing Mr. Moscoe of holding his own talks with the union around last week’s illegal strike, Mr. Ducharme, in his angry confidential resignation letter, accused Mr. Moscoe of creating a “fiasco” with the TTC’s forthcoming purchase of $705-million worth of subway cars.

The commission decided to give the contract to Bombardier Transportation without allowing other firms to bid on the job, provided an external auditor approves of Bombardier’s price.

Mr. Moscoe spoke to reporters yesterday after a news conference at the Royal Ontario Museum, where the provincial government announced $2-million in funding for elaborate plans to redesign three downtown subway stations, starting with Museum station.

The rest of the cost of the $5-million Museum project, which is to line the platform with Egyptian sarcophagi and other historical motifs, is to be covered by the TTC and private donors. The Toronto Community Foundation, which is spearheading the effort, says it is still looking for donors.