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Council votes to make TTC essential service

by Don Peat,
City Hall Bureau

The Better Way is on track to becoming the Essential Way.

Despite several councillors expressing concerns the move will derail future city budgets, Mayor Rob Ford and a majority of councillors voted 28 to 17 to ask the province to declare the TTC an essential service.

Both TTC chief general manager Gary Webster and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 president Bob Kinnear have spoken against making the Red Rocket an essential service.

The evening vote didn’t come without a heated debate.

Former TTC vice-chairman Joe Mihevc questioned why council was doing this now and for what reason.

“I don’t see what’s in it for us,” he said.

Councillor Cesar Palacio, an ardent supporter of the essential service designation, said it must happen.

“They shouldn’t have the right or the ability to hold an entire city hostage,” he said.

Councillor Anthony Perruzza called the move to get the designation a “bogus smoke and mirrors political game.”

“This is a bogus fixer,” he said. “This is make a promise at election time, just bring it in for the heck of it.”

Councillor James Pasternak stressed he supports the right to strike but transit is too important to leave to chance. He warned if council didn’t approve asking for the designation, the union would threaten to strike at crucial times like when the Pan Am Games come in 2015.

Councillors also voted 40 to 5 on Thursday to slash their individual office budgets from $50,000 to $30,000.

The move carves $899,580 out of the 2011 operating budget.

Frank Di Giorgio, John Filion, Pam McConnell, Ron Moeser and Gord Perks were the handful of dissenting votes.

As the council meeting began, Ford told councillors reducing the budgets works out to less than 5% of a councillor’s combined office and staff salary budget and argued it was a reasonable request.

“This shows respect for taxpayers,” Ford said. “This is the right thing to do.”