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Don't expect bailout, province tells TTC

Eves suggests contracting out to private sector

By Theresa Boyle

The TTC can forget about a provincial bailout, says Premier Ernie Eves, adding that the transit commission should consider other ways of balancing its books, such as contracting out services to the private sector.

The TTC should be “reviewing its business practices and doing what they have done in other jurisdictions, for example, in Australia, where lots of places have contracted out certain routes for public transit,” Eves told the Legislature yesterday.

“In one case, I forget whether it’s Adelaide or Melbourne, they actually have 52 different entities contributing to the overall mass transit system in that city, and it functions a heck of a lot better than the TTC does here in Toronto,” he added.

This week, a TTC report indicated that because of a looming $78 million shortfall, it must raise bulk ticket and token prices by 10 cents and Metropasses by $5.25 a month on Jan. 1.

Several measures were proposed to deal with the budget gap, including persuading the province to subsidize the Sheppard subway line, poised to open next month, by $8 million annually.

But yesterday, the Premier recited a laundry list of initiatives the province has undertaken on behalf of the TTC. It has given the commission $1.8 billion since 1986, recently funded it to the tune of $126 million and is contributing another $56 million along with Ottawa for the refurbishment of Union Station, he said.

“Believe me, we have more than done our part with respect to TTC,” he said.

But his government came under fire in Question Period yesterday for not doing enough to support public transit and for forcing a fare increase on commuters.

“The TTC has announced that they will have to increase transit fares once again because your government doesn’t support public transit. When you don’t support public transit financially, it drives more people into their cars, which means more smog and more greenhouse gases,” NDP Leader Howard Hampton said.

Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty urged the province to adopt his idea of dedicating 2 cents a litre from the gas tax to public transit.

But Eves said the plan is unworkable because that tax revenue is required for road repairs.

Meantime, Transportation Minister Norm Sterling told reporters earlier in the day that it’s not fair to blame the province for fare hikes.

“No, I don’t think it’s fair. I think that they have it within their means,” he said.

He accused the commission of financial mismanagement for withdrawing the commercial tax levy on businesses along the new Sheppard line.