June 4, 2019, Toronto ON – The Ontario Progressive Conservative government today passed its so-called Getting Ontario Moving Act that clears a path to privatization, increased fragmentation of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and a potential sell-off of vital City of Toronto assets, including existing subway stations.
“It’s incredible the Doug Ford government passed a bill with such magnitude without much, if any, public discussion,” said Carlos Santos, President of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113, which represents 11,500 TTC employees. “Our transit system and the workers who move Toronto every day will be entirely at the mercy of a Premier who has done little to explain how he intends to manage Canada’s largest transit system, and at what cost.”
Now that the Ford government has passed the bill that will see the province take ownership of new TTC subway infrastructure, Santos said major decisions affecting riders and employees should only be made after extensive public consultations.
“Torontonians pay for and own the TTC, but they’ve been excluded from the conversation,” said Santos. “It’s time for the province to respect Torontonians by seeking the support of the City of Toronto and the TTC, which has managed the system for nearly a century.”
While many questions remain unanswered, we do know the Getting Ontario Moving Act gives the Ford government the power to move forward unilaterally with its stated plans of uploading the TTC to the province and make the delivery of rapid transit projects the responsibility of Metrolinx, a provincial agency.
Decision-makers also have the ability to halt existing transit planning and replace it with new designs, to be built and operated by private companies. This could mean taking a single, integrated system of subway, bus, LRT and streetcars, and carving it up into two or more pieces operated by vastly different entities.
“If Doug Ford’s proposed Ontario Line is operated by a private company like the UP Express is, for example, a commute to work could include an additional fare,” said Santos. “We just don’t know at this point, but history gives us reason to be concerned.”
On the infrastructure side, the Act allows the province to transfer all or some of Toronto’s assets to itself, with or without compensation. This means the province can take valuable city assets, like Union Station, without a single cent in return.
Perhaps the most worrisome section of this Act would enable the dismantling and privatization of Toronto’s public transit system without challenge, and without following existing legal protections for workers and the environment.
The Act allows the provincial cabinet to exempt a transfer of rapid transit projects from all Ontario laws. This could include worker protections in the Labour Relations Act, environmental protections in the Environmental Protection Act and more.
ATU Local 113 warns that intentional language gives the Premier the ultimate power to push plans through without challenge.
“With so much at stake, ATU Local 113 will continue to keep a very close eye on the province’s plans as they begin to be rolled out,” said Santos. “One thing’s for sure – public transit workers are prepared to fight tooth and nail to get the province to reverse decisions that are not in the best interest of TTC riders and its employees.”