Leading a delegation of We Own It supporters and mobilizers, OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas threw his support behind the provincial Keep Transit Public campaign during its launch on Oct. 24.
“More than 42,000 Ontarians have signed up for the We Own It campaign. They want to keep transit public because we own it!” Thomas said to a boisterous crowd gathered in front of Toronto’s Union Station.
“My union and I fully support anti-privatization campaigns like We Own It and Keep Transit Public,” Thomas said. “When unions stick together, we can win and we will win.”
The Keep Transit Public campaign launch was also attended by Ontario Federation of Labour President Chris Buckley, CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn, Ontario NDP Transportation Critic Cheri DiNovo, and TTC Riders member Brenda Thompson.
“P3s and privatization are job killers,” said Buckley. “It’s time for us to fight back.”
Keep Transit Public is sponsored by Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Canada and its locals across Ontario.
“Transit isn’t about making profit for the few,” said ATU Canada President Paul Thorp. “Transit is about public service and it should serve the public first.”
But Thorp said that more and more public transit projects are being privatized. Many new projects are financed through costly and secretive P3 deals. And in southern Ontario, the quasi-governmental transit organization Metrolinx is trying to make it impossible for public transit authorities to even bid on operating or maintaining new lines.
This past summer, a local Keep Transit Public campaign convinced Hamilton City Council to formally ask the provincial government to force Metrolinx to abandon its scheme to privatize transit operations and maintenance. The provincial government has yet to respond.
The provincial Keep Transit Public campaign will continue fighting privatization in Hamilton, and will expand that fight to Mississauga, Brampton, and Toronto.
“You’re like the little Go Train that could,” said Thomas. “We stand with you.”