Dr. David McKeown
Toronto's top doctor is the latest high-ranking civil servant to run afoul of the Ford administration.
On Rob Ford's radio show Sunday, Councillor Doug Ford appeared to suggest medical officer of health Dr. David McKeown should be fired after he authored a report recommending that the city-wide speed limit be lowered to 40 km/hr.
"Why does he still have a job?" Councillor Ford said, calling into the show from Orlando, Florida.
Rob Ford also criticized the doctor, calling McKeown's six-figure salary "an embarrassment." The mayor said the medical officer of health makes over $300,000 a year and promised to "look into it."
"Why are we paying this person x number of dollars?" Ford asked.
The mayor appears to have overestimated McKeown's salary however. According to the so-called Sunshine List released earlier this year, McKeown took home $294,302.61 in 2011, plus $10,885 in benefits.
The on-air exchange called to mind the mayor's public dispute with former TTC general manager Gary Webster. The TTC board fired Webster in February after he failed to back Ford's campaign promise to build a subway on Sheppard Ave. instead of the LRT network council eventually approved.
At the time, council critics accused Ford of punishing Webster for giving advice that contradicted his agenda.
It would likely be difficult for the mayor to have McKeown fired however. While the TTC board that voted to dismiss Webster was dominated by Ford loyalists, none of the six councillors who sit on the 13-member board of health are close allies of the mayor. Six of the other board members are citizen appointees, and one is an elected school board representative.
McKeown has been medical officer of health since 2004, and as head of Toronto Public Health is responsible for setting public health policy and advising council on health issues.
In a report released last week on strategies to increase active transportation, he recommended lowering speed limits to 30 km/hr on residential streets and 40 km/hr on non-residential roads as a way of improving pedestrian and cyclist safety. He cited studies that found people are eight times more likely to die if struck by a vehicle travelling 50 km/hr than if hit by one travelling 30 km/hr.
The report, which will be debated by the board of health on Monday, was always sure to meet with disapproval from the mayor, who campaigned on ending the "war on the car" and making life on the roads easier for Toronto drivers.
Each year in Toronto, over 1,000 cyclists and 2,000 pedestrians report being injured in collisions with motor vehicles. Roughly 30 such incidents are fatal.