I wanted to tweet this, but I couldn’t do it justice in 140 characters so here it is…
I’m extremely sad to see Gary Webster go. For those who don’t know he’s the current General Manager of the Toronto Transit Commission and he has been a long time servant of the corporation and the people of Toronto. So long in fact he was the man who gave my grandfather his big promotion back in the 70s and 80s.
There’s a personal angle to this. Gary Webster was the last thing my grandfather and I talked before he died. You see I didn’t know my grandfather was going to pass away and I didn’t know I was going to fall sick, with pink eye which prohibited me from visiting him in the ICU, when we had that conversation. So to pass the time during a visit we did what we usually did when we talked together. We talked some politics and talked some transit issues. My grandfather loved to discuss both, I was always curious for his take on the TTC (he was senior management there for years, working his way up from an immigrant bus driver). So there it was. My grandfather’s take on Gary Webster. His last words to me.
What was that take? That you couldn’t hope to find a person more knowledgeable about the TTC and transit to be running the TTC. But my papa cautioned: ”The thing with Gary was he always too nice. The TTC was a place where you could be taken advantage of if you weren’t careful, and that was always a problem Gary ran in to – he was too nice of a guy”. My grandfather was one of those nice guys and he retired bang on the 30 year mark. He had had enough of trying to make it work at the TTC, being a nice guy in that tough environment. How many good guys have we lost over the years by creating a poisonous climate in our civil service?
Some will celebrate this today as a victory for transit in the city. Many of my conservative friends, one of which actually voted on the motion for today’s dismissal of Gary, will claim some victory for the Mayor and for conservatism and transit policy in the city today. There’s no victory in firing someone with that level of dedication, passion and knowledge. Maybe firing him was the right move. Maybe this was the time for him to go, maybe in order to change the direction of the company (which believe me, there’s a lot that needs changing) he needed to go. But there’s no victory for us citizens in losing that type of person from a key position in a key institution in the city.
On a personal note I want to wish Gary all the best. When my grandfather passed away we exchanged some emails and he wrote a lovely letter to my grandmother which I know touched her deeply. I know if my papa was here today he’d be saddened by this to. So I’m sad on his behalf today and I hope Gary will go on to retirement or some other opportunity and find happiness.
Gary. All the best. You gave Toronto so much, and probably deserved a little better.