Toronto City Councillor Doug Ford spoke to reporters Monday following a news conference where he commented on various municipal issues, including the OneCity transit plan and Chief of Staff Amir Rhetulla exiting the Mayor Ford administration.
Mayor Rob Ford didn’t speak to reporters after a press conference held at city hall, but his brother, outspoken Etobicoke Councillor Doug Ford, provided his thoughts on different issues affecting the city of Toronto.
Chief of Staff
It was confirmed Saturday night by the Mayor’s Office in an email that Chief of Staff Amir Rhetulla would step down from his post after 18 months. Instead, Rhetulla will serve as Vice-President of External Partnerships with the Toronto 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games.
This is the fourth administration official to resign. Chief of Staff Nick Kouvalis, Council and Policy Liason Andrew Pask and Press Secretary Adrienne Batra were all former staffers for the mayor, who has been in office for close to two years now.
Doug Ford said it was “sad” for Rhetulla to be stepping down, but he noted that the administration doesn’t view it as Rhetulla “leaving the team” because “he’s always part of the team.”
“As I said last time about Nick Kouvalis being part of the team, he’s going to be working on our campaign, but the mayor and the team felt we needed ears and eyes on the ground at the Pan Am Games,” stated the rookie Etobicoke councillor. He added that he’s happy there will be “one of the mayor’s guys” working at ground zero of the Pan Am Games.
“This is critical this comes off without a hitch and the mayor’s going to make sure it’s on time and on budget,” said Ford. “Let’s be fair to Amir, he’s been going hard 24/7, 18 hours a day everyday and you get an opportunity to advance your career, get paid a lot more and have one-tenth of the pressure.”
This week, city council will discuss the OneCity transit plan. It’s a $30 billion 30-year transportation strategy introduced by Toronto Transit Commission Chair Karen Stintz and Scarborough City Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker. If approved, it would build six subway lines and 10 light rail lines that would total more than 140 kilometres of new transit.
The mayor has said he will not support the plan and Ontario Transportation Minister Bob Chiarelli has confirmed the province will not back the transit plan because “too much time has been wasted and we need shovels in the ground.”
Meanwhile, the mayor’s brother called it “ridiculous,” “not realistic” and “wasn’t thought out properly.” Ford added that it’s $30 billion of taxpayers’ money that will affect “families, seniors, residents right across the board.”
“My thoughts are: you go to the private sector, see what the private sector will bear, once you find out what the private sector will bear then you come back to the folks of the city and say ‘these are the revenue tools’,” explained Ford. “Until we do this, any option they throw on the table is not realistic, you got to run it like a business, do what you would do at your household.”
He added that there are pension funds across the globe that are investing billions of dollars, including Toronto pension funds “that want projects in Toronto to invest in.” Ford concluded: “We have to look at the P3 option.”
Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC)
There’s a new report circulating that TCHC CEO Gene Jones has a to-do list and one of them includes selling off the agency’s headquarters in Rosedale and move in a neighbourhood that has more public housing.
The proposal could be recommended as early as August at the TCHC board, which would then require the approval of council.
When Ford was asked for his thoughts about this plan, he responded that he was not briefed on the report and would not be able to comment. However, Councillor Frances Nunziata said responding to such a question would be “premature” and noted she couldn’t comment any further.