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Liberals close debate on bill declaring Toronto public transit essential service

TORONTO, Ont. – The province has moved to close off debate on legislation that would take away transit workers’ right to strike.

The Liberals used their majority to introduce a time-allocation motion which ended the second-reading debate.

Public hearings are set to begin next week, but it’s expected the legislation will pass third and final reading before the TTC’s first labour contracts expire later this month. As a result, the bill could become law by April.

Supporters argue that transit strikes cost Toronto $50 million per day and the Ontario government always ends up stepping in to order employees back to work, creating a ripple effect through the provincial economy.

Critics, meanwhile, argue that it will cost taxpayers more in the long run when TTC contract disputes go to arbitration, as the staff usually ends up with larger pay raises or bigger salaries.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath criticized the Liberals for ramming the bill through and not giving MPP’s enough time to properly debate it. She calls the actions “unacceptable” because the proposed legislation takes away the fundamental rights of workers.

The province had agreed to introduce the essential service legislation following a request from Mayor Rob Ford, who wants it passed before the contracts expire on March 31.

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