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Statement to the Legislature
By Charles Sousa
Minister of Labour
Regarding the introduction of:
The Toronto Transit Commission Labour Disputes Resolutions Act, 2011

  • Issued: February 22, 2011
  • Content last reviewed: February 2011

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Speaker, I rise in the House to propose legislation that is being introduced to address the unique and specific transit needs of the City of Toronto.

As members of this House know, on December 16th, 2010, Toronto City Council made a request through a motion asking that the province “designate public transit in Toronto an essential service.”

Speaker, our government respects the right of the City Council of Toronto to speak for the people of that city.

Our response to the City of Toronto request takes into consideration the City’s concern regarding the unique circumstances of Toronto and its transit system.

And these circumstances include the critical role the TTC plays in the life of the City of Toronto, and indeed in assuring the health and safety of its people.

This bill, to enact the Toronto Transit Commission Labour Disputes Resolutions Act, 2011, would prohibit strikes and lockouts at the TTC.

Speaker, as a general matter, Ontario’s Labour Relations Act would continue to apply to labour relations between these parties.

However, in cases where the parties reach an impasse in collective bargaining, outstanding issues would be resolved through a fair and neutral third party process – binding interest arbitration.

Speaker this proposed legislation addresses a truly unique circumstance.

Toronto is Ontario’s and Canada’s largest city.

The TTC is also this country’s largest transit system.

Every business day approximately 1.5 million people ride on, and rely on, the TTC.

There’s the health care worker who rides the system to get to their job at a hospital or nursing home.

There are the students and teachers who take it to school.

There are the parents who rely on TTC to get to work and provide for the kids.

There are those, including many elderly Torontonians, who don’t have cars and take the TTC to medical appointments.

There are the young people who use the TTC for a safe ride home.

Tourists who visit our attractions depend on public transit.

There are thousands of riders who can’t afford the time and money to drive and park downtown, if that parking is even available during a TTC work stoppage.

And we know the fewer the number of cars on our roads, the better it is for our environment and air quality.

The TTC helps keep cars off the road, and reduces air pollution that our children and our elderly breathe.

We’ve seen the packed roads and the major disruptions caused in Toronto when it has been brought to a near stand still by TTC work stoppages.

The City of Toronto, Speaker, has the largest concentration of hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities in the province.

There are 40 hospitals, 84 long-term care homes, and 21 Community Care Centres in the Greater Toronto Area, as well as many retirement homes.

Many of those who staff these facilities get to work every day by public transit.

It is clear, Speaker, that for the City of Toronto to lose the people-moving system relied on by1.5 million on a normal business day, it is much more than just an inconvenience.

To get an idea of the scale of TTC’s operations, on the average business day it moves the same number of people that live in Hamilton, Kitchener, London, Sudbury, and Windsor combined.

And when we think of the number of people affected by TTC work stoppages, we can also understand the City of Toronto’s concern about the economic impact work stoppages have.

We know from past experience that work disruptions on the TTC severely affect the city’s economy, and we know the importance Toronto has in the province’s economy.

Work stoppages at the TTC, according to a City of Toronto staff report issued in 2008, have an estimated economic impact of $50 million every work day.

The impact of TTC service disruptions would send economic and environmental shock waves across this province.

Speaker, fives times since 1974, the provincial government has enacted legislation to end or prevent a TTC work stoppage; most recently in April of 2008.

That legislation testifies to the vital, unique, and critical role the TTC plays in the lives of Torontonians.

Speaker, our government firmly believes in the right of collective bargaining, and that the best collective agreements are those reached at the bargaining table.

This proposed legislation would not take away or limit the right to bargain.

And even when bargaining reaches difficult stages, our professional mediators are available to assist the parties reach agreement.

This bill would only prohibit strikes and lockouts.

This bill would provide a fair and neutral means to resolve bargaining impasses – binding arbitration – the same basic means of resolving impasses used by our police, fire fighters, and hospital workers.

The people of the City of Toronto are in the best position to determine how vital the TTC is to their lives.

Their elected representatives have made this request to the province.

We have carefully considered the request and consulted with the City, the TTC, and its bargaining agents. . . .

. . . and after carefully reviewing the request, the reasons for it, and the reality of the circumstances, we are responding in a way that is fair and measured.

This is not about taking sides, Speaker.

It is about acting in response to the City of Toronto’s request.

It is about looking out for the people of Toronto, and that includes looking out for their health and safety.

It’s about listening to the people of Toronto, and their concern about the ability of their City to function effectively if they’re left without their transit system.

It is only fair and reasonable that the TTC and its unions know the rules that will apply in settling these agreements if they reach an impasse in bargaining.

With our proposed legislation, Speaker, the parties would have a stable means of settling unresolved collective bargaining issues.

And the public would benefit from uninterrupted access to vital TTC services.

With this bill, this legislature would no longer have to resort to ad hoc back-to-work legislation in order to resolve TTC labour disputes while the people of Ontario’s largest city are left stranded without their transit system.

Fostering stable labour relations and uninterrupted provision of services by the TTC reinforces our government’s key priorities of public health, the environment, and green economic growth.

A report prepared for the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 113, in 2008, estimated that without TTC services there would be over 178,000 additional cars on the road in Toronto, and about 350,000 new car trips on any business day.

That’s a lot of added pollution in our air, Speaker.

That is an impact the people of the City of Toronto can understandably ask to be protected from.

The City of Toronto motion requesting this legislation asked as well that a mandatory review of the legislation take place after five years.

And so our bill calls for such a review to take place within one year of the fifth anniversary of its coming into force.

Again, Speaker, this legislation comes in response to the City Council of Toronto motion to prohibit strikes and lockouts at the TTC.

We have carefully considered the request.

We have consulted with the City, the TTC, and its unions.

And we have listened to the people of Ontario’s largest city say they need the largest transit system in Ontario to function without interruption.

We have listened, Speaker, and we have acted responsibly in introducing this bill.

Thank you.