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Vancouver transit referendum result “a populist uprising against public private partnerships.”

Vancouver transit referendum result “a populist uprising against public private partnerships.”

Saturday, Jul 4

Local 113 president Bob Kinnear said Vancouver’s 62% rejection of a sales tax increase to fund failed and increasingly expensive for-profit transit projects is a warning to governments that the public tolerance for privatization of public services has reached a breaking point.

Vancouver’s Translink (similar to the TTC but a so-called public-private partnership) suffered a huge blow when voters in a referendum turned thumb s down on the $7 billion sales tax plan to fund more transit in this highly congested region.

“Just as we saw in neighbouring Alberta, voters are tired of being fleeced by the corporate-government complex of backroom deals, huge political patronage and total lack of transparency involving taxpayers’ money,” said Bob Kinnear, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents most Toronto Transit Commission and York Region Transit workers.

“Everyone who followed this story knows that Vancouverites are rational people who know they need more transit but do not trust Translink, which has has under-delivered on service improvements and wasted huge amounts of money while not being publicly accountable.

“People are tired of paying more and more for fewer and more stressed public services because corporate profits now have to be figured into the cost” says Kinnear, whose union has waged a long campaign against P3s in Ontario, calling them “Pick the Pockets of the Public.”

“It is a genuine populist uprising against the theft of public services,” says Kinnear, “Just like the Toronto referendum of 1920 that saw a 90% vote in favour of a fully-public transit system. People massively rejected the existing privately-run system back then and they have done that again today in Vancouver. Good for them.”

“We will work with our fellow transit workers in Vancouver to help bring their transit system back under public control and accountability,” says Kinnear.

“Around the world, there has never been a transit P3 that has performed as promised. Not one. It’s time for politicians to give up this delusion, and the corporate contributions that go along with this delusion.”

Upon learning of the vote, ATU International President Larry Hanley came to Canada to assess the development, as transit privatization is also a big issue in the United States.

“Canadians are very supportive of public transit,” said Hanley. “But they are fundamentally resistant to the privatization of public services, which is why there is no popular initiative to privatize the TTC. The Liberals snuck it through in British Columbia but that game is over. Americans and Canadians can learn a lot from each other in this whole P3 area.”