TORONTO, April 22, 2014 /CNW/ - Toronto's Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113 has launched a public awareness campaign to help make the Ontario Liberal government's plans to privatize all new public transit projects an election issue in Toronto, where the transit mess caused by years of government underfunding is the number one public concern. Metrolinx, the government's transit agency, has issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to two private-sector consortia to finance, build and maintain the multi-billion dollar line that will stretch from Kennedy Station in the east to Mount Dennis in the west.
"The privatization of new transit lines in the GTA is an historic mistake that ignores evidence from around the world that this model of infrastructure improvement simply does not work," says Bob Kinnear, President of the 10,000-member union.
"Our campaign is not about protecting jobs because people will be needed to construct, maintain and operate the new line in any case. It's about protecting taxpayers and riders, who will inevitably pay more and eventually suffer service cuts in order to cover private corporate profits.
"The Liberal government has learned nothing from the many so-called 'public private partnerships' that have ripped off taxpayers and service users in recent years," said Kinnear. "When you mention the doomed gas plants, the eHealth rip-off, the outrageously expensive 407 toll highway, the ill-managed ORNGE medivac service or the failed Brampton Hospital to a Liberal, they get this glazed look in their eyes as if they have no idea what you're talking about.
"Now they want to do the same thing to transit, starting with the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. Another #P3fail in the making. What a disaster."
The campaign will consist of radio, television, print ads and a website: www.truthabouttransit.com. Visitors to the website can enter a daily draw to win the cash equivalent of a free Monthly TTC Metropass. Along with appearances on media public affairs shows, Local 113 President Bob Kinnear will also meet with citizen groups to persuade them to demand that all new transit improvements, starting with the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, be wholly publicly owned and operated.
The decision to conduct the campaign was made after repeated attempts by Kinnear to persuade the government to take another look at their privatization plans and pay attention to the evidence. His message fell on deaf ears. At separate meetings last year with Glen Murray, Minister of Transportation and Premier Kathleen Wynne, Kinnear strongly contested the Ontario government's plan to build all new transit projects in the GTA as P3s.
"Where is the evidence that there is a public benefit to privatizing transit?" Kinnear asked the Minister and Premier. "The fact is that there is none. All the evidence points the other way. Privatization, P3, whatever you call it, has failed everywhere, and always for the same reason. It is impossible for a private company to make a profit in public transit without huge government subsidies or higher fares or reduced service, usually all three. Where is your evidence that says otherwise?"
The campaign is being run in advance of the election being called for strategic reasons, says Kinnear.
"During an election campaign, there are many issues vying for public attention. We want to get out in front of the noise and create a public focus on this vital issue. We want to affect the agenda for public debate on transit before the election rather than during it.
"And we're not going to be silent during the election either. This is Toronto's number one issue."
SOURCE: Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 113
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