Union cheers mass transit advocate’s election in Canada

TORONTO – The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) is cheering the mid-June Ontario parliamentary election win by the Liberal Party and its leader, Kathleen Wynne, a foremost advocate of mass transit – and a fervent foe of public service job cuts.

Wynne swept to victory in the voting in Canada’s largest province, home to approximately one of every three Canadians. The pro-worker New Democratic Party also did well, even though it will no longer be the junior partner in a coalition government, ATU said.

The Progressive Conservatives (Tories), who campaigned on a platform of cutting 100,000 public service jobs, did so badly in the balloting that their leader had to step down.

“The Liberal Party received a clear majority of the votes in Ontario’s elections last week, electing its foremost advocate of public transit, Kathleen Wynne, to be premier,” ATU’s website said. “And even though it lost its former power as a coalition partner in a minority government, Andrea Horwath’s NDP gained seats sweeping the southern tip of the province.

“The election is a virtual ratification of Wynne’s budget,” presented before parliament was dissolved so the new election could be held, ATU explained. And it’s “a green light for her big plans for public transit-particularly in the Greater Toronto area.”

Wynne’s budget includes $29 billion for public transit, roads and bridges over the next decade and better wages for workers in health care and education. Ontario, like the rest of Canada, has government-run single-payer health care, but the provincial governments, not the federal government, manage it. Health care workers are government employees.

“The one thing to watch, however, is any movement by the new Liberal government to build new transit with public-private partnerships, which would be bad news for labor in general – and ATU members, in particular,” ATU’s posting warned.

Canadian media also reported Wynne used her reputation as a conciliator “to make peace with public school teachers angry over wage-freeze legislation” from her Liberal predecessor. And Wynne called the Tory plan to cut 100,000 public service jobs “an apocalypse” and promised to stop it. The Tories said the cuts would help close a budget deficit.

Meanwhile, Ontario, like the U.S., is dealing with another mass transit issue: Increasing injurious assaults on bus and subway drivers. At the urging of ATU Local President Travis Oberg, the Lethbridge, Ont., city council wants the Canadian parliament to increase penalties for such assaults. Other cities made the same request to Canada’s Tory government.

Right now, the perpetrators, when caught, tried and convicted, receive a 30-day jail sentence at most, Oberg told city councilors in mid-June. Oberg and his local want the penalties to be the same as those for assaults on first responders, such as Firefighters.

Photo: Kathleen Wynne. Frank Gunn/AP & The Canadian Press


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.