Posts Tagged: gordon chong

May 11

Does anybody really believe in Ford’s transit plan?

Councillor John Parker, who serves as Deputy Speaker and is pretty firmly aligned with Ford and Council’s conservative wing, wrote a column this week for My Town Crier, appearing in the Leaside-Rosedale print edition, where he expressed some doubt about the mayor’s recently unveiled transit plan:

There will be at least one provincial election and possibly one municipal election before we can expect construction work to begin on the projects not already designed and approved.

My prediction: Finch West will soon get improved bus service. Eglinton will get its underground crosstown line to Brentcliffe. The TTC will eventually adopt the Presto fare system and the SRT will eventually be replaced by an LRT.

But stay tuned for further debate concerning plans for Sheppard and the form of LRT service on Eglinton east of Leaside.

via More twists and turns for Toronto’s new transit plan – TownNEWS – – the online home of Toronto’s Town Crier Group of Community Newspapers.

Beyond the Mayor, his brother, and a few of their closest allies, I’ve yet to hear anyone express the opinion that a privately-funded Sheppard subway line is possible or desirable.

Related: At Council next week, Janet Davis will attempt to ask a series of questions regarding the new transit plan and Toronto Transit Infrastructure Limited, the agency revived to work on securing private funding. Her questions, which could simply be referred and not answered, include everything from an inquiry about how much TTIL CEO Gordon Chong is getting paid to the million dollar query: will council ever get to vote on this damn thing?

Apr 11

Replacing the gravy train with a crazy train

Earlier this week, in response to news that board-of-one Case Ootes would approve the sale of 22 TCHC properties, the Toronto Sun’s Don Peat quoted Mike Layton. “What’s the rush now?” asked the rookie councillor.

It’s a question you could ask about a lot of news coming out of City Hall. If there’s a single unifying characteristic for the first four months of Rob Ford’s administration, rushing would be it. If you buy the mayor’s claim that the previous council was some kind of “gravy train,” this council is a train of another sort, rumbling forward at a million miles per hour, taking no care on the curves. This train moves forward even at the expense of planning, consultation or process.

The mayor rushed through the budget process, and attempted to make cuts to TTC bus routes without public consultation. Every effort has been made to avoid debate on transit planning issues, though that may change next week. We were told it was imperative that every member of the TCHC board be immediately removed, even recently-appointed councillors and elected tenant representatives.

For a recent example, take the Sheppard Subway plan. This week we learned that former councillor Gordon Chong was hired as President of CEO of Toronto Transit Infrastructure Ltd, the agency revived a month ago to oversee the early stages of the project. As John Lorinc with the Globe points out today, Chong was essentially “sole-sourced” into the position, bypassing the TTC’s normal process for recruiting senior executive positions.

Chong will be paid the equivalent of a $100,000 per year salary. Lorinc points out that he is “the third high-profile member of Mr. Ford’s transition team to find paid positions in the mayor’s administration.”

This kind of behaviour — rewarding supporters with well-paying positions; avoiding due process –, while it doesn’t appear to break any rules, seems surprising, given the mayor’s history. Ford once publicly accused Adam Vaughan of having a serious conflict of interest because a person who donated $250 to Vaughan’s campaign ended up appointed to a city committee. (Ford was later forced to apologize, then there was a party.)

Giving the mayor his deserved credit, I do believe that any characterization of Ford as even a little bit corrupt is nonsense. I think what drives the mayor is a casual ineptitude when it comes to rules and process, coupled with a general lack of patience.  You can see echoes of this in the stories (also by Lorinc) about irregularities in Ford’s campaign expenses. I doubt very much that the Fords attempted to game the system — it seems more likely that they simply barrelled forward, unencumbered by complicated campaign finance rules, taking the easiest path towards getting things done. Rush rush rush.

There’s an upside to the rushing. People often complain about the general lethargy of government. How nothing changes and nothing gets done. This administration certainly takes a different approach, and up until now it’s been largely effective in the broad-strokes. But a train moving this fast, and with so little regard for the rules of operation, runs the real risk of going off the rails.

Apr 11

A shrug on Sheppard

From his weekend column, the Toronto Sun’s Rob Granatstein:

The man is charge of making the business case for Rob Ford’s Sheppard subway admits the plan may never come to fruition.

“While everybody is optimistic about the building of the Sheppard subway, it could still not go,” said Gordon Chong, who is entrusted by the mayor with leading Toronto Transit Consultants Limited and putting together a business case analysis for Sheppard.

“It will either be yea or nay,” Chong said in an interview this past week.

Chong said pension funds are interested in investing and he’s optimistic, but there’s a real possibility the train is never going to hit the tracks.

via Rob Ford’s Sheppard hole: Granatstein | Rob Granatstein | Columnists | Comment | Toronto Sun.

I hope everyone who lives in the area around Sheppard East realizes that this administration just traded a sure-thing high-capacity transit line — due to open in three years! — with a roll-of-the-dice idea that no one, even the people working to make it happen, have much confidence in.

Mar 11

Sheppard subway a two (hundred)-step process’s David Nickle got Councillor Norm Kelly to talk on the record about the new Toronto Transit Infrastructure Limited group (made up of Kelly, Doug Ford and former Councillor Gordon Chong) and their plans for the privately-financed Sheppard subway extension:

“It’s a two-step process,” said Kelly. “The first is to get P3 money that would fund the study, and then at the end of the study see who might be attracted to the line in the private sector – see if they agree with the numbers we come up with. We’re taking the nascent steps to create a business case.”

Kelly said he hoped to have the funding “sooner rather than later,” but would not commit to a timeline or share any theories as to how a public private partnership might work, other than to say the subway would be built by the private sector and operated by the Toronto Transit Commission.

via InsideToronto Article: Company seeks ways to privately finance Sheppard subway.

“Taking the nascent steps to create a business case” is code for “THIS WILL TAKE A MILLION YEARS.”

Don’t be surprised, though, if the federal government announces their full support for this project and funds the P3 study in the next few weeks. It would make a very good election announcement and work to build confidence that the Conservative Party cares about 416 ridings.