Effie Vlachoyannacos, Franz Hartmann, and Bob Kinnear prepare to speak about the Public Transit Coalition’s “Keep the TTC Public” initiative. Photo by Steve Kupferman/Torontoist.
At a press conference late this morning the Public Transit Coalition, an umbrella group whose members include organizations with interests in the future of public transit in Toronto, announced a media initiative to oppose privatization of the TTC. The Coalition will be promoting this initiative with a $500,000 advertising campaign, funded by ATU Local 113, the transit union to which TTC employees belong.
The Coalition is responding to strong criticism of the TTC and its operations made by many of the leading mayoral candidates, and is hoping to head any talk of handing some TTC operations over to the private sector off at the pass. From their website, which also went public today: “Some politicians think turning over all or part of the TTC to private, for profit companies would make it run more efficiently and at a lower cost. They should do their homework. Public transit privatization has been tried around the world. It’s never worked. ”
Only one major mayoral candidate is absent from the Coalition’s list of “privatization” proponents (this is a literal list we’re talking about, by the way—they handed it out with the press packet): Joe Pantalone. The Coalition insists that they are strictly non-partisan and that their initiative, which will include advertisements on TV, in print, online, and (naturally) on transit, is not a backhanded endorsement of Councillor Pants.
“Our goal is on election day to have all the top mayoral candidates saying: ‘We agree to keep the TTC public,'” said Franz Hartmann, executive director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance.
ATU Local 113 president Bob Kinnear was also at the presser, and pointed out that transit is an issue that affects all Torontonians. “I say that,” he said, “because it is inevitable the spin by some will be that the Local 113 has made a large contribution to this campaign because the union is somehow afraid of privatization. Let me put that to rest. Our union has negotiated with the private transit company in Toronto decades before the TTC was established [in 1954], and we represented our members well. We negotiate today in York Region with [York Region VIVA operator] Veolia Transporation…We can deal with whoever is on the other side of the bargaining table.”
If the union is not afraid of privatization, it would be fair to say that they are at least deeply, deeply concerned. What they—and let it be said, a great deal of transit activists who are not on anybody’s payroll—would prefer is a return to the good old days, when the provincial government provided money for the TTC in the form of subsidies.
“We need the upper levels of government—specifically the provincial government—to get back to where we were throughout the seventies and eighties and early nineties,” said Kinnear. “We need to get them back involved.”
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