New ATU anti-P3 campaign to challenge provincial government
ATU Local 113 has launched a public awareness campaign to make the Ontario Liberal government’s plans to privatize all new public transit projects an election issue in Toronto, where the transit mess caused by years of government underfunding is the number one public concern. The Liberals are determined to ignore overwhelming experience from around the world that privatizing public transit is a bad deal for both riders and taxpayers.
The campaign will consist of radio, television and print ads along with appearances by Local 113 President Bob Kinnear on media public affairs shows, such as talk radio and television. Kinnear will also meet with citizen groups demanding transit improvements that are publicly owned and operated.
The decision to conduct the campaign was made after repeated attempts by Kinnear to persuade the government to take another look at their privatization plans and pay attention to the evidence. His message fell on deaf ears.
At separate meetings last year with Glen Murray, Minister of Transportation and Premier Kathleen Wynne, Kinnear strongly contested the Ontario government’s plan to build all new transit projects in the GTA as so-called “Public-Private Partnerships,” often called P3s.
“Where is the evidence that there is a public benefit to privatizing transit?” Kinnear asked the Minister and Premier. “The fact is that there is none. All the evidence points the other way. Privatization, P3, whatever you call it, has failed everywhere, and always for the same reason. It is impossible for a private company to make a profit in public transit without huge government subsidies or higher fares or reduced service, usually all three. Where is your evidence that says otherwise?”
Murray and Wynne had no answer for Kinnear except to say that the government is committed to P3s as a way of building infrastructure, whether it is hospitals, jails, highways, transit and public services such as health records and electricity generation.
“This is the direction we have chosen,” Murray told Kinnear. “By engaging our private sector partners, we believe we will build badly needed infrastructure faster and with less strain on the public purse.”
Kinnear pointed out that this is exactly what privatizing politicians in Britain, Australia, Chile, Argentina and many other countries said before falling victim to corporate greed and incompetence. The London Underground P3 cost the taxpayers over a billion dollars before the government took it back. The Melbourne, Australia system cut service drastically after it was privatized and public subsidies went through the roof. There have been “transit riots” of outraged public transit users in South American countries, where the cost of commuting to and from work and school eats up as much as 20 per cent of average daily incomes.
Even in Canada, the P3 transit line in Vancouver – the Canada Line - was built on budget only by cutting several planned stations and designing the line so that it could never be upgraded. In York Region, just north of Toronto, Canada’s only fully-privatized transit system, York Region Transit, charges the highest fares in the country and is taxpayer-subsidized at five times the public subsidy of the TTC, while paying its workers 30 per cent less than they would earn as TTC employees.
Kinnear gave the Minister and Premier a DVD copy of the union’s 2010 documentary, “Keep TTC Public,” which detailed the many problems of transit privatization. The video, which is available on YouTube, has been shown at transit and urban affairs conferences around the world, to great acclaim. It does not appear that Murray or Wynne took the necessary 15 minutes to view the video, which might have encouraged them to rethink their multi-billion dollar plans.
What does the union hope to accomplish with this campaign in the face of government intransigence? Kinnear explains:
“There will be a provincial election very soon. The deal to build the three-billion dollar Eglinton Crosstown as a P3 will not be finalized for several months. It can be stopped if there is another minority government, either Liberal or Conservative, that is forced to re-examine the project in order to get NDP support to stay in power. Of course if the NDP should win, which is entirely possible, we know they are opposed to privatization. In any case, public awareness of the many hazards of transit privatization is crucial to a political solution. People have to understand that they will be ripped off by a P3, just as the citizens of so many other countries have been.”
The campaign is being run in advance of the election being called for strategic reasons, says Kinnear.
“During an election campaign, there are many issues vying for public attention. We want to get out in front of the noise and create a public focus on this vital issue. We want to set the agenda for public debate on transit before the election rather than during it. The Ontario Nurses’ Association is doing the same thing, with its pre-election advertising on the shortage of qualified health care workers in hospitals due to government cutbacks. We admit we’re not breaking new ground here by coming out before the election but we believe, along with the ONA, that it is the way to go.
“And we’re not going to be silent during the election either. This is Toronto’s number one issue.”
Click here for Bob Kinnear’s radio ad on The International Day of Mourning for Workers Killed and Injured and on the Job. A ceremony honouring fallen workers in Toronto will take place on Monday, April 28, at noon, at the memorial in Larry Sefton Park at the corner of Bay St. and Hagerman, just behind Toronto City Hall. If your work shift allows, please be there to especially honour the Local 113 members who have been killed and injured on the job.
TTCriders emerged as a response to the tens of thousands of transit users who said that they want better transit in Toronto.
Their campaigns are clever and fun, such as the TTC Sardines Award presented to Ontario Minister of Transportation Glen Murray.
Their goal is to build a TTC that works with and for transit riders. Our Vision for a public transit system is based on the following guiding principles:
- Fair and affordable fares
- Building modern, fast transit into all corners of the city as fast as possible
- Making public transit fully accessible transit
- Frequent service that connects all our neighbourhoods
- Environmental sustainability
- Respect for front line TTC workers
- Respect for fellow TTCriders
Their power depends upon the support of riders and their allies. If you share their vision then become a member of TTCriders.
ATU Local 113 supports TTCriders and congratulates them for their activism in support of a critical need for Toronto’s economic, social and environmental future.
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