Toronto transit union president calls for independent public enquiry into Metrolinx

TORONTO, Feb. 25, 2016 /CNW/ - The President of Toronto's transit union is calling for an independent public enquiry into Metrolinx, the provincial government agency responsible for the future of public transit in the Greater Hamilton and Toronto Area (GTHA).

"The Union-Pearson Express fiasco is only the tip of the iceberg. The incompetence of Liberal government oversight of Metrolinx is scandalous. Billions of public dollars will be wasted, now and for decades to come," said Kinnear.

"If you think that eHealth, the gas plants, Ornge helicopters, and the many other Liberal privatization schemes were expensive, you haven't seen anything yet. Unless decision-making changes, over the next decade, the money that will go into bad transit planning to mainly benefit multinational corporations will far surpass what has been thrown away already by the Liberals on other projects.

"So much is at stake. Decisions on transit infrastructure made now will affect our city for the rest of the 21st century. And the cost will be enormous. It is only sensible to determine independently if we are going to get value for money. So far, no Metrolinx project has been able to show that. It's very disturbing."

Also disturbing is the fact that TTC Commissioners have been asleep at the switch. It appears that none of them, including the Chair, has any idea how the fares and expenses of the Metrolinx Eglinton Crosstown P3 will be allocated. Toronto taxpayers may end up subsidizing this Eglinton P3, and the corporations behind it, starting with the financially crippled Bombardier. If any TTC Commissioner knows this, they have been keeping it to themselves. I suspect they just don't know, which is very worrisome."

There are many independent experts on urban transportation here in Toronto, Kinnear pointed out. "When so much public money is involved, an expert second opinion makes sense, especially given Metrolinx's track record to date, which is pretty dismal."

Kinnear said that Minister Del Duca's explanation that "it takes time" for a new service to become "known and loved," is pathetic and only adds to the charge that incompetence is the main problem. Premier Wynne also said that establishing a new service like this is a "process."

"Metrolinx has had total responsibility for the UPX for over five years. And the plan itself has been on the drawing boards since 2000. How much time do these folks need? There are hundreds of thousands of Torontonians who have been desperate for more transit for far longer than Metrolinx has been around.

"Could we get going on a process for them? Their taxes are being spent on an obscenely-subsidized luxury service that mainly benefits corporate travelers. The UPX subsidy rate we calculate roughly around 70 per cent, so the passengers pay about 30 per cent. Interesting that this is the opposite of TTC finances, where our passengers pay over 70 percent of it the TTC's cost.

"It's Robin Hood in Reverse. That's what you get with P3s. When the corporations get to make the arrows, you can bet the taxpayers get the shaft."

"You've got to say this for the Liberal government: When they screw things up they do it in a big way."

Kinnear said that he was already in discussions with transit experts and stakeholders and found broad support for the idea of an independent enquiry into Metrolinx.

"Many people who know public transit are uneasy with the way such huge infrastructure decisions are being made and the financial arrangements that are not being adequately scrutinized," he said.

"People deserve to know how their very hard-earned money is being spent," said Kinnear. "If the Liberals resist this idea, it's because they have something to hide. Let's get going and find out the truth. It's out there."

SOURCE Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113

For further information: 416-398-5113

RELATED LINKS
http://www.atu.org/

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