May 5, 2014 3:20 pm

Ontario Election reality check: Do Liberals plan to privatize transit?

ABOVE: Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne told reporters Monday that she has no intention of privatizing the TTC

Question: Does Kathleen Wynne plan to privatize public transit?

Analysis: She says no. Andrea Horwath says otherwise.

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In an interview on CBC radio Monday morning Horwath said this year’s Ontario budget included future plans to privatize ownership of public transit.

“That’s part of Kathleen Wynne’s plan in terms of the way that they’re going to move forward with expansion of the TTC. It’s very clear that that’s the case,” Horwath said.

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She later added: “If you look in their budget, their plan talks very much about alternative service delivery and P3s [public-private partnerships] and all of these kinds of things, which are exactly that.”

Horwath amended her comments just a few hours later when speaking to reporters in Brampton, suggesting the Liberals want to privatize “work that gets done in Ontario.” She didn’t clarify whether that means the operation or construction of transit or construction.

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She pointed to the Eglinton Crosstown as an example of that “privatization.”

(Interestingly, ads paid for by the TTC union and released prior to the budget suggested the same.)

First of all, let’s be clear: No one – least of all Wynne, or her budget – has suggested privatizing the Toronto Transit Commission.

The Eglinton Crosstown is being built using a public-private partnership. It will be operated by the TTC but maintained by the private sector.

Public-private partnerships (also called P3s) don’t necessarily lead to the privatization of government assets. Instead governments pay a private company to build or operate infrastructure.

Infrastructure Ontario lists dozens of projects, including hospitals and courthouses, being built using P3s.

At the end of the day, the government still owns the infrastructure.

The Ontario budget says nothing about privatizing transit anywhere in Ontario.

It does however say the government would look to “Alternative Financing and Procurement” models (P3s) in order to “deliver more infrastructure projects.”

But if that’s where Horwath’s getting her transit privatization scare, it’s an odd source: She herself says she’d want to include private-sector contributions in funding the downtown relief line.

Conclusion: Everyone calm down: No one, as far as we can tell, is suggesting privatizing the TTC or other public transit bodies.

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