THE MOON AND THE TORONTO TRANSIT COMMISSION
CASA LOMA/RUSSELL HILL SUBWAY ACCIDENT AUGUST 11th 1995
INQUEST DAY TWENTYTHREE - Tuesday 27th February 1996
2 POLITICIANS, ZERO INFORMATION
After a week off, the Inquest resumed with the first order of business being Mr. Falzone asking for an adjournment until the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) "informational pickets" were over. He was not supported. There was nail biting tension in the courtroom as Dr. Huxter wrote and wrote and wrote!! Finally, after declaring that Mr. Falzone and his client (Local 113 of the Amalgamated Transit Union) had contributed admirably to the inquest so far, Dr. Huxter felt that as the "informational pickets" were likely to be on for at least two weeks and then March Break would be upon us that the Safety issues required that the process not be further interrupted, especially as the process is very nearly finished.
Al Leach, currently the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs in the Ontario Government but recently the Chief General Manager of the TTC from 1987 to 1994, was the day's first witness.
He did not contribute very much information to the record except that the Ontario Government Cabinet has over 700 municipalities budgets to consider and that when Metro asks for a budget approval there is no consideration of individual projects in that budget. Mr. Leach explained that there is a constant and detailed interaction between the TTC, Metro and the Province during budget preparation so that "...there are no surprises..." when the budget finally gets to Queens Park.
Some other observations by Mr. Leach:-
Doesn't know what the approval situation is for the new Transit Control Centre. The Signal System is outdated and needs to be replaced. "Junk" is not the word he would use for the Ericsson train stops. Unaware of the problems uncovered by Mr. Bassily's report. Aware of bad news suppression. There are no agencies at the Federal, Provincial or Municipal level that monitors the TTC for safety related aspects. The system is safe. If it were not so, I would have closed it down. I rode it yesterday. Any recommendations from the jury will be taken into consideration and judged on their merits. Not aware of specific concerns of Mr. Cedarburg and he directed him to the Coroners Office. Confident that money would be available for safety related issues. The funding of the new Sheppard line and the funding of Infrastructure replacement are two separate issues. Despite Mr. Punter's best efforts, he could not get Mr. Leach to trash Mr. Gunn. Mr. Campbell, Mr. Leach's lawyer, objected to Mr. Leach being asked if the jury's recommendations would be funded. He is sure his advice would be sought on the jury's recommendations. Although the training course was increased by one day when he was CGM, he was unaware of any problems with training. Unaware of Regina/Hill. Believed in the downward spiral argument (higher fares leading to fewer passengers leading to higher fares ...) and had used it himself. Answered Mr. Punter's mantra Yes/Yes. Mr. Leach was aware that there was a signal system but he was not aware of how it worked and could not offer an opinion about the Lunar Whites.
After lunch Paul Christie, a commissioner since 1992 and currently a Metro Councilor for East Toronto and Chairman (unpaid) of the Toronto Transit Commission described how the commissioners react to the various pressures of staff and Metro Council. In his time on the Commission he can only remember one time when Metro insisted on a fare change of which the Commission didn't approve. He felt that the Commission is responsible to the ridership and ultimately Metro and the voters. He said that the Queen Street car carries more people than the whole GO Transit organization and that the TTC is a very considerable part of the Ministry of Transportation's annual budget. Mr. Christie believes that Vehicle identification (in the subway) is a safety related issue and wants to spend $100,000 on a study and $8 million to implement such a system.
1) Today we heard two politicians spend all day saying nothing. Neither of them contributed anything that is going to assist the jury in its recommendations. Their general lack of knowledge of a system that they have both been involved with for a number of years is pretty pitiful.
2) Dr Huxter has a book. Well actually one of those very nicely bound inch thick books of blank notepaper. He started the book, writing diligently most of the time, on the first day and it must be pretty full by now!! After Mr. Falzone's request for an adjournment to honour OPSEU's "strike", he wrote for a long time in his book before he gave his decision and the tension was palpable as we all waited to see if we would have yet another break in the proceedings. After Mr. Gomberg suggested a break while Mr. Falzone checks again with his client, Mr. Falzone reappeared in the court room to represent his client in questioning the politicians.
3) It is somewhat disconcerting to be told that $60 million of public money can be spent without the Cabinet being particularly involved. To suggest that the approval is actually "done in the backrooms" makes the whole process of provincial Budget approval appear to be rather "provincial"!!
4) While indeed it may be true that the Cabinet is concerned with 700 municipal budgets, I find it hard to believe that Belle River gets more consideration than can be used between two sips from a cup of coffee. For Mr. Leach to tell us that the actions of Metro Toronto do not use up vast amounts of Cabinet time is asking us to stretch our imagination beyond belief. The process of Provincial Budget approval is a mystery and as a result of Mr. Leach's appearance in court today, it is still a mystery.
5) At one point Mr. Punter was trying to explain the signal system to Mr. Christie. Talk about the blind leading the blind!!
6) Hopefully in jest, Mr. Punter made the suggestion during Mr. Christie's testimony that we have a notice in the front of trains warning young children to be aware of a potential danger due to a possible head on collision!!
Day 24 commences tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.
Dave Irwin - 27th February 1996