Ontario’s transportation minister is throwing cold water on a private member’s bill that would designate all transit systems in the province essential services, prohibiting their workers from going on strike and managers from locking out staff.
Transportation minister Kathleen Wynne said the provincial government will not support the bill because it’s up to cities to ask for the change and at this point no city has asked.
Don Valley East Liberal MPP David Caplan introduced the bill Monday afternoon. He said he had originally planned only to include the TTC in the bill however after hearing from people in other cities he decided to ask that the essential service designation apply to all transit services in Ontario.
The former health minister said people are fed up with a perceived declined in a service that’s needed to keep the city running. He said a single day shut down of the subways, buses and streetcars in Toronto costs the local economy $50-million and “enough is enough.”
Under essential service designation, if the union and management can’t agree on a new contract, an arbitrator would do it for them.
The bill lays out an arbitration process in cases where bargaining breaks down.
Caplan said he doesn’t buy arguments from Toronto’s mayor and most city councillors that such a move would translate into expensive arbitrated wage settlements. In the past, he notes, labour disputes have led to work stoppages and emergency sittings of the legislature that ended in negotiated arbitration anyway.
While a Private Member’s Bill rarely becomes law, Caplan notes ideas in the bills are often adopted by the government.
Caplan says his Queen’s Park colleagues may not support him but he said he’s been receiving an overwhelming positive response to this idea from citizens of the city of Toronto.
The bill passed first reading in the legislature on Monday but is not expected to progress any further.