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TTC union chief hammers Liberals on essential-service bill

TTC union president Bob Kinnear.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

The head of the TTC union has told the committee studying TTC essential-service legislation that the bill is based on "misrepresentation and twisted principles."

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 president Bob Kinnear told the committee on Thursday that he is outraged the provincial government is rushing through the legislation for the "lowliest of political reasons: to try to save a few votes in a few close ridings" in Toronto.

Mr. Kinnear taunted Labour Minister Charles Sousa for claiming that he had to introduce the bill because the City of Toronto had requested it.

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"Just because the city asks for something does not oblige the government to respond," he said. "That same city asked for $150-million for TTC funding this year, which the government has denied. So we're not talking about a principle here, are we?"

Mayor Rob Ford has threatened "Ford Nation" would vote out Premier Dalton McGuinty this fall if he doesn't provide more funding to the city, and Mr. Kinnear implied the provincial government was going ahead with the TTC essential-service legislation bill to appease the mayor.

Mr. Sousa's spokesman, Greg Dennis, sidestepped Mr. Kinnear's controversial claims.

"The minister has said before that we have 1.5 million reasons why the city wants to make the TTC an essential service and why we agree with it," Mr. Dennis said, referring to the TTC's ridership. "We've decided to proceed (with this legislation) because the TTC is so vitally important to the city."

But Mr. Kinnear also told the standing committee that the province had its facts wrong when it comes to the TTC.

He challenged the figure of financial loss in the 2008 City of Toronto report, cited by Mr. Sousa as a reason for making the TTC an essential service. The report calculated a TTC strike would cost Toronto $50-million a day, Monday through Friday, based on the assumption of a 10-per-cent reduction in services.

Mr. Kinnear said the amount was "fictional" and "bogus."

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"It seems that this $50-million figure was picked out of thin air with no basis in fact," he said. "We have no idea where this figure came from or how it was arrived at. And yet the minister quoted the $50-million as if it were gospel."

Mr. Dennis responded to those allegations by saying the province is merely working from the report provided by the city of Toronto.

"These are not our numbers. We never said that," he said. "That's what the city told us."

Mr. Kinnear also slammed the provincial government for claiming that banning transit strikes was a matter of public health and safety, contrary to the same 2008 City of Toronto report that the government had previously quoted.

"There is no evidence for this, in fact, the police, fire and emergency services have all said that TTC strikes do not interfere with their response times. And the Toronto Public Health Department says there is no data on the effects of TTC strikes on public health," he said.

In fact, Mr. Kinnear said, the report used by the province as a reason to declare the TTC an essential service, actually recommended not going ahead with that plan.

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