Home > News Room > TEA in the News > Ford insider lands high-paying TTC post - Toronto Star

Ford insider lands high-paying TTC post - Toronto Star

April 6th, 2011
Tess Kalinowski
Transportation Reporter
Toronto Star

Former North York councillor Gordon Chong is the latest member of Mayor Rob Ford’s transition team to be appointed to a high paying public job — this time working with the TTC.

A former chair of GO Transit and vice-chair of the TTC, Chong will earn a salary equivalent to $100,000 a year as the president and CEO of Toronto Transit Infrastructure Ltd.

The appointment comes less than a month after Ford insider and former councillor Case Ootes was named head of Toronto Community Housing Corporation, with similar compensation.

Both former politicians also collect municipal pensions.

A TTC-affiliated shell company, TTIL was tapped by Ford in March to help the TTC apply for a $1.2 billion federal infrastructure program to build a subway extension on Sheppard Ave. East.

The application has to be submitted by the end of June, said TTC chair Karen Stintz.

Chong, who is semi-retired, said he accepted the position for four to six months. Beyond the funding application, he will be quarterbacking the engineering and financial advisors on the project.

Ford has said he expects to use private-sector funds to build a Sheppard subway extension west to Downsview station and east to the Scarborough Town Centre.

Chong, who has advised Premier Dalton McGuinty on metropolitan transit authorities, said he has been researching so-called P3s — public-private finance-and-build schemes — including one used to pay for part of Vancouver’s Canada Line.

“Nobody can really claim a lot of experience in the transit sector because there hasn’t been a lot done in Canada,” he told the Star on Wednesday.

“My interest in transit and transportation has been ongoing for the last 10 years. It’s exciting and it’s a shame Toronto has fallen behind,” he said.

Asked if existing TTC staff could have done the work Chong has been hired to perform, Stintz said, “Yes, but it was determined that it was better to carve it off and have this consulting body do it.

“It was deemed by the mayor’s office that this was an appropriate way to move forward,” she said.

Councillor Norm Kelly (Ward 40, Scarborough-Agincourt) and Councillor Doug Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North) are directors of the company, which had been idle for years before being pressed into service last month.

The company is not required to meet in public but does report to the Toronto Transit Commission, which is public, Stintz said. TTIL holds $160,000, she said, and the TTC would have to approve its expenses.

Chong’s appointment led some councillors and the Toronto Environmental Alliance to accuse the mayor of sole-sourcing senior government jobs.

The TTC has given the job of heading one of the most important projects facing the city to someone who didn’t even go through a job search, said Councillor Joe Mihevc, a former TTC vice-chair. “I don’t think that meets the test of transparency and accountability,” he said.

“(The Sheppard subway) is a $4.2 billion project that will indebt the city. It’s more than all the deficits of the former seven municipalities, plus all the accumulated debt of (former Mayor) Mel Lastman, plus all the accumulated debt of (former mayor) David Miller … This has to be one of the two or three biggest decisions that will face the commission and face council in the next three or four months,” he said.

“If you’re a former councillor in this administration, you have more sway and more power than sitting councillors,” said Maria Augimeri, who sits on the transit board.

A motion for more public consultation and study of the operating subsidies required to run a Sheppard subway was soundly defeated by the other councillors on the transit commission.

Councillor Vince Crisanti said he has already asked TTC staff to report back on how bus service can be improved along Finch Ave. West, where the latest transit plan scrubs an earlier scheme to provide light rail down the middle of the road.

Improvements to the Finch bus are likely to be in place by 2012, said TTC vice-chair Peter Milczyn, who added that the Spadina subway extension, which will stop near Finch and Keele, will shorten the commutes of many who ride the Finch bus.

He also dismissed skepticism about the viability of extending the Sheppard subway.

“I’m quite confident we will find a way to build Sheppard,” he said. “Building something is better than nothing.”

As originally published here: http://www.thestar.com/news/ttc/article/970395--ford-insider-lands-high-paying-ttc-post

2011-04-06 Ford insider lands high-paying TTC post _Toronto Star_.pdf19.95 KB