Passenger feels like he ruined fired bus driver's life
The OC Transpo passenger who was the subject of an expletive-filled tirade from an OC Transpo driver says he feels bad that the driver was fired.
Matthew Taronno said he changed his mind about disciplining the driver after learning of some of his personal tragedies.
"I feel badly about him getting fired," he said. "I hear he lost his wife and mother and I feel like I ruined his life."
Garry Queale, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union 279, said the punishment is too severe.
"We do not condone language used by operators, but believe he was tormented and termination is far too severe," he said. "He lost family members to cancer in the last year or so, has an ailing parent, two days before was spat upon by another passenger on a different route."
The head of Ottawa's transit union says he'll file a grievance on the dismissal of the driver.
Queale said the union would have advocated for a suspension, change in job responsibilities and anger magagement courses for the driver, who they said had a clean record in his 25 years of driving.
However, he said the city had its meeting on the decision while he was away at a funeral.
Video sparked national reaction
The City of Ottawa announced Monday evening the driver had been fired after being caught on video swearing at and threatening a disruptive passenger on Nov. 3 on a route 96 bus.
The cellphone video has been watched tens of thousands of times (almost 164,000 views on Tuesday morning) and caused widespread outrage, including from Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson who said he was disturbed by the incident.
Taronno, 20, says he's mildly autistic and was reading a play he wrote when he went to the front of the bus to apologize to the driver, triggering the outburst.
Queale said he doesn't think Taronno's behaviour that night was an isolated incident, and that there's more to the story than meets the eye.
"I've had a lot of calls from people that knew the passenger," he said. "He has been problematic."
Reaction on Ottawa's streets Monday night was mixed.
"I agree with it fully," said one person. "I think he was in the wrong, and deserved what he got."
"Maybe the guy did have a bad day, maybe he did cross the line, but didn't have to fire him for that because everybody loses it," another said. "I don't think anyone was in danger."
Queale said he hasn't spoken to the driver yet, but he has left him a message.
He said the union has apologized on the driver's behalf, but it's up to that driver to decide if he wants to issue a personal apology.
With reports from CTV Ottawa's Claudia Cautillo and Vanessa Lee