Toronto mayor questioned over city bus used to pick up football team

Mayor Rob Ford coaches football



TORONTO -- A city councillor and transit commissioner wants to know who ordered two buses to dump their riders Thursday and go pick up Mayor Rob Ford's football team.

Toronto Transit Commission officials stressed Friday that Ford didn't throw his weight around a day earlier to get a private TTC bus to transport the Don Bosco Eagles, but said the transit authority simply responded to a request from Toronto Police after a fight broke out at the playoff game.

City councillor Peter Milczyn said he wants answers from the police and the TTC about who gave the order to ditch riders.

"It's unfathomable to me," he said. "Unless there is a real life and death emergency, why would fare-paying passengers be taken off a bus in the middle of the route and the bus sent somewhere else?"

The member of Ford's executive committee said "on the face of it, it makes no sense."

"I find it hard to believe that even if the mayor called and demanded a bus that anyone would listen to him," Milczyn said.

"I can't imagine a phone call from the mayor would trigger dumping passengers off a bus," he added.
Milczyn said he hopes there is a "very good explanation" for what happened.

"It wasn't a fire, it wasn't the evacuation of a nursing home or hospital," he said.

Ford left city council for more than two hours Thursday to coach the Eagles in their semi-final playoff game. The game, which the Eagles won, was stopped early when a brawl broke out and police were called to the field at Father Henry Carr school.

Police ended up requesting a TTC bus to transport Ford's team back to their school "due to weather conditions."

Ford refused to talk about the incident Friday.

"I've answered those questions already," Ford said.

TTC spokesman Brad Ross confirmed Friday that Ford did leave a message on TTC CEO Andy Byford's phone Thursday.

"The mayor left (Byford) a voicemail on behalf of the police saying they are wondering where (the bus) is and that was all. He didn't make any demands, he didn't put any pressure on," Ross said.

Ross confirmed two buses were pulled off their routes and forced to drop off passengers to respond to the request. The first bus, pulled off the 36 Finch West bus, had difficulty finding the school so a second bus was sent from the 46 Martingrove route. The Finch bus arrived first and the second bus was called off.

"It's unfortunate (we had to displace customers) but these are operational decisions we make to try to get a shelter bus there as quickly as we can," Ross said.

"We consider them emergencies and so we want to get them there as quickly as we possibly can."

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 president Bob Kinnear blamed the incident on Ford.

"(It is) unbelievable that the mayor would utilize his influence and power to leave people who ordinarily use public transit and rely on public transit to get to work, get to school -- it is a necessity for them -- and for Mayor Ford to direct the TTC to bring a bus that was in service ... to simply go and retrieve a football team is unbelievable," Kinnear said.

Kinnear said he didn't "buy" the TTC's explanation.

"They were definitely scrambling, there is no doubt about that," he said.

Kinnear said dispatching a second bus "would mean potentially hundreds of people during that period of time would be standing on a street waiting for a bus that isn't coming."

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