August 27, 2020
The Honourable Caroline Mulroney sent by e-mail: email@example.com
Minister of Transportation
777 Bay Street, 5th Floor
Toronto ON M7A 1Z8
Dear Minister Mulroney,
RE: Public Transit and the Safe Restart Agreement
On behalf of the nearly 1,600 transit drivers in Ontario represented by Unifor, we wish to express our concern and opposition regarding conditions your government has outlined in the recent Federal-Provincial Safe Restart Agreement.
The COVID19 pandemic has put considerable financial pressures on municipalities and public transit authorities due to widespread job losses, business closures and restrictions on public gatherings. Public transit agencies have been hit especially hard due to a decrease in ridership and fare reductions. However, transit has remained a critical service, especially for those essential workers who have continued working and helping their communities through these difficult times.
As per correspondence sent from your office to Toronto Mayor John Tory, we have become aware of specific requirements municipalities looking to receive Phase II of funding for transit under the Federal-Provincial Safe Restart Agreement would need to fulfill. Most troubling are the requirements that municipalities must work with the Province (and Metrolinx where applicable) to determine the feasibility of implementing microtransit (i.e. largely privately-run, on-demand, app-based modes of transportation, such as Uber or Lyft) options on certain routes, as well as reviewing low performing bus routes to determine whether they could also be served better by microtransit. We find this to be alarming for several reasons.
Firstly, your government is using the pandemic as a means to further an agenda of transit service reduction and privatization. The funds under this agreement is public money. It should not be withheld at a time when municipalities and transit systems are in critical need of financial help in order to maintain service levels and jobs. Secondly, the reduction of routes and use of app-based ride-sharing services would result in a loss of good transit jobs and erode employment security for drivers, further harming workers and their families in a time of layoffs, high unemployment and economic uncertainty.
Transit workers are essential workers and have been in the forefront of keeping our communities moving during these challenging times. Finally, reducing transit service levels on supposed ‘low-performing’ routes only further diminishes the quality of life for marginalized communities that often live in areas outside of the city core and requires accessible transportation. Low-income workers, immigrants, students and people with disabilities all rely on and deserve access to quality transit services.
We are asking your government to do the right thing and remove these regressive conditions from the Safe Restart Agreement. We must find ways to expand our public transit services, not reduce them. The government must provide all transit systems across the province with access to the funding they need in order to serve our communities. We thank you for your time and attention on this urgent matter.
Unifor Ontario Regional Director