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Proposal for civilian oversight of TTC rejected

3 Committee Seats; Control to those with business background

By Natalie Alcoba

Toronto’s executive committee yesterday rejected a bid to cede some control of the TTC to citizens with a business acumen— an idea popular among leading mayoral contenders.

Councillor Paul Ainslie asked the executive committee to consider a change that would see the nine seats filled with three members of the public with a business background and six elected officials. Currently, all nine are councillors.

Howard Moscoe, a former TTC chairman, said that’s exactly how it should stay because that’s how you ensure accountability.

“Politicians are there to reflect the will of the people. They are the citizens on the TTC,” Mr. Moscoe (Eglinton-Lawrence) said.

He aired a laundry list of horror stories involving governing boards with citizens, including an earlier iteration of the TTC that, under the helm of a citizen, he said “went off into a number of ventures.”

Mr. Ainslie (Scarborough East) had a list of his own: he said transit authorities in Chicago, New York and Montreal have been running smoothly with citizens and experts on governing boards for years.

“I was trying to find a balance,” Mr. Ainslie said afterward. “Having nine city councillors running it is not the way to go. They don’t all have the background that they need to run a transportation system that size.”

Mayoral candidates George Smitherman and Rocco Rossi have both proposed overhauling the board at the TTC.

Specifically, Mr. Ainslie’s motion was to ask the city manager to report back on how the city could restructure the TTC. The fact that the executive committee was unwilling to consider even this, he said, suggests the “tunnel vision” plaguing the organization. (The motion that executive committee rejected actually suggested the composition be six members of the public, and three members of council, but Mr. Ainslie said afterward that was a typo and the numbers should be reversed.)

Councillor Peter Milczyn, who is a TTC commissioner, spoke in favour of a mixed board that included citizen representatives with backgrounds in business, engineering and also transit users. “I think there would be value in it,” he said.

Mayor David Miller told reporters later that the issue at the TTC is funding, not governance. “It’s got a proud history since private citizens stopped sitting on the board of being the best transit system in North America,” he said.

Asked whether commissioners on the TTC could be elected the way school board trustees are, Mr. Miller said he had thought about it and concluded “you couldn’t do that properly without giving them taxing power as well.”

The executive committee did, however, endorse asking the TTC to establish a permanent citizen advisory committee. The TTC is in the process of pulling together a temporary panel to advise it on customer service issues.