Stop public-private partnerships "immediately" says Toronto transit union

DOWNSVIEW, ON, Dec. 11, 2014 /CNW/ - Following is a statement by Bob Kinnear, President of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents over 10,000 workers at the Toronto Transit Commission and York Region Transit. The statement comes in the wake of this week's report by the Ontario Auditor General that infrastructure public-private partnerships ("P3s") have cost Ontario taxpayers nearly eight billion dollars more than if the projects, which include transit expansion, were done as they had been in the past, through government management and financing.

"Today we call on the Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne to immediately halt the use of so-called 'public-private partnerships' for transit improvements and finance them in the same way as we, and most other cities have done, for nearly a century: through a mortgage-like public debt.

"The report of the Ontario Auditor General is damning to P3s but it only the latest in a massive – and still growing – body of evidence from all over the world that transit P3s cost taxpayers much more in financing charges, and do not provide better service for transit users.

"For years we have been sounding the alarm about the waste and folly of using P3s to build more transit infrastructure. Last year I met with Premier Wynne and personally handed her a copy of our YouTube video, Keep TTC Public, which cites transit experts and political decision-makers in several countries where transit P3s have been disastrous.

"Prior to that, I had met with then-Minister of Transportation Glen Murray and asked him if there were any evidence that P3s were a better way of providing transit improvements. He said he would take a look at the video and that his office would get back to me. They never did.

"Recently, I met with the new Transportation Minister, Stephen Del Duca, who said that the government was not financially capable of doing all needed infrastructure projects on its own. He was not moved when I pointed out that many jurisdictions in Europe were pulling back on the P3 transit model as wasteful and unworkable.

"P3 is a kind of religion with the Liberals. They are untroubled by facts that question their beliefs and their response to the Auditor General's report further demonstrates this blind spot. It is remarkable that they think they can just wave away the unfortunate transit P3 experience of other jurisdictions, such as Melbourne, London, Vancouver, Aukland, and Santiago, among others.

"As London, England's Mayor Boris Johnson memorably put it when commenting on the London Underground P3 financial disaster: "In other countries this would be called looting, here it is called PPP."

"Another difficult issue with P3s is this: 'Who are we doing business with?' One of the two consortia bidding on the Eglinton Crosstown P3 is headed by the giant Canadian engineering firm, SNC Lavalin, which has been convicted of corruption and bribery related to infrastructure projects, both overseas and in Canada. SNC Lavalin has been forbidden from bidding on any work, anywhere in the world, that is financed by the World Bank. But in Ontario, they are being given a pass and are allowed to bid on major projects, despite the arrest of several of the company's officials over a corruption scandal involving the McGill University Health Complex in Montreal.

"Other major international infrastructure firms that wildly profit from P3s have also been convicted of corruption in many forms. Ontario welcomes them all with open arms. This government has not learned the staggeringly expensive lessons of privatization: Highway 407, the gas plants, eHealth, Ornge helicopters, and many more of the dozens of P3 projects noted by Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk.

"There is no financial, engineering or environmental reason why the Eglinton Crosstown and other Metrolinx-planned transit projects cannot proceed under the traditional design-build arrangements that were used to build our existing subway system. Other large cities, in Canada and around the world, are doing just that. We should too.

"It's time to wake up from this Liberal dream that the private sector can build and operate public transit better. That dream has turned into a fiscal nightmare for many jurisdictions where P3 is now a four-letter word."

You Tube videos on privatization: Keep TTC Public Part 1, (12 min) Part 2 (6 min). 30-second TV ad.

Other related videos: Protecting What Matters (90 seconds), Toronto's Transit Future (4.5 min) History of Local 113 (8 min)

SOURCE: Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 113

For further information: To arrange interviews with Bob Kinnear: Bill Reno: 416.223.7366

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Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 113

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