Many of us in the Toronto public transit movement are looking upon the June 7 Ontario provincial election with a combination of gloom and a glimmer of possibility. Gloom, because the lead that the Ford-led PC’s have promises to signal a roll back of many of the important but moderate gains we have made in the past few years, and transform our struggle to move forward, into defending those gains.
The ‘glimmer’ refers to the possibility that we can do some education and mobilization with working people who use transit in Toronto, along with our allies in the union movement – and in particular, ATU Local 113 members – to raise the key issues behind our movement: increasing and providing stable operational funding for the TTC; keeping it public; increasing accessibility by building rapid mass transit throughout the city and in particular, working class neighbourhoods; reducing overcrowding and lowering fares for all, but especially people living in poverty and lower incomes.
Like so many of us, who are not tied to one of the political parties, TTCriders, as a transit user’s organization, is working to build a broader, deeper and more effective movement through the election, and in the process, help influence voters to “vote for transit”, and away from the possible (and now probable) mess that could result from the election of a Ford-led government.
We are working on a series of actions and educational tools, to bring out transit issues, and help to shape the outcome as best we can. They include:
– A Vote Transit Report Card, that includes the positions of four parties (PC, NDP, Liberals and Greens) on a series of key transit issues: funding better TTC service; commitment to lower fares; building more transit; keeping it public. Not surprisingly, the PC’s fail miserably on all of the issues. The NDP gets a green light on most, but a ‘yellow’ light on promising to fund more transit (they haven’t committed to a specific figure they would spend); the Liberals refuse to commit to any stable funding or keeping transit public, while they get a ‘yellow’ light for some funding and commitment to building more transit; the Greens get a green light on all of the issues.
In reality, both the PC’s and Liberals are worse than the report-card demonstrates. Ford [remember his brother’s city administration cancelled the Light Rapid Transit (LRT) network known as Transit City, which the province had fully paid for] is not supporting the Finch LRT. Instead, he is leaning toward building an expensive, half-baked subway line that won’t serve the needs of the low-income neighbourhoods of the city’s Northwest that are literally crying out for rapid mass transit.
Further, he continues his later brother’s obsession with building underground transit, so as not to interfere with private car dominance. That would come at the expense of other forms of rapid mass transit, such LRT networks that could serve current transit deserts in lower-income working class neighbourhoods in North York and Scarborough. Much of the $5 billion proposed by Ford for transit in the GTHA, would be used for subway building. Other than the needed relief line to take pressure off of the Young Line, much of the spending could very well be wasted. The PC’s also propose that the province take over the subway system.
Meanwhile, by also proposing to have the province take ownership of the subway system, the Liberals, are positioning themselves to potentially sell-off portions of the subway system in order to pay for some of their planned privatized transit infrastructure projects, as they have done with the sale of Hydro One. Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency, will only accept bids from companies that can Finance, Design, Build, Operate and Maintain projects, cutting public transit agencies like the TTC out of the picture. Like Hydro One, this will undoubtedly result in higher fares and less accountability.
– There are plans for a number of canvasses at transit stations across the city, handing out the Report Cards, and asking transit users to sign a pledge sheet to Vote Transit. It provides an opportunity to discuss ways of addressing transit needs and doing some education about the different parties stand on transit. There will be a “Day of Action”on May 23.
– There will be a series of Town Halls and work at All-Candidates meetings, where we have the resources to do so.
– A new and exciting part of this is the participation of the ATU 113, the TTC workers who have a campaign around challenging privatization and P3’s, called, “Keep It Public”. With both the Liberals and PC’s proposing to take up provincial ownership of the subway network, the road to privatization will be wide open. This campaign is a large-scale mobilization and educational campaign by the union local and marks an important step in the union’s transformation into an engaged participant in the city’s activist community. The group of activists from that union are now working across the city to build their campaign.
If people want to participate in the TTCrider or ATU campaigns, contact us through the TTCrider website, at TTcriders.ca.