Premier Doug Ford tight-lipped on back-to-work legislation ahead of possible TTC strike

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Ford government quiet on options as Toronto transit strike looms
WATCH: Ford government quiet on options as Toronto transit strike looms – Jun 4, 2024

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and several top cabinet ministers remain tight-lipped on whether the provincial government would legislate an end to a potential Toronto transit strike, as politicians hold out hope that the two sides would reach a negotiated settlement.

At 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) employees, including bus and subway drivers, will walk off the job if a deal is not reached. If the strike is triggered, it would see the city’s transit network grind to a halt before workers begin their morning commute.

While Ford suggested a transit strike cost the city and province “billions of dollars,” he would not commit to taking provincial action to end a potential labour and economic disruption.

“They should bargain in good faith. … Let’s just avoid it at all costs,” Ford told reporters ahead of a cabinet meeting at Queen’s Park.

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When asked whether the government would table legislation to end a strike, Ford said it was “hypothetical” and opted to wait until bargaining had concluded.

While the transportation minister didn’t offer any concrete steps on how the province would handle a strike, the province’s labour minister said his ministry has offered support.

“It’s important that the collective bargaining process is respected and we urge both parties to land a deal. There’s still time,” Labour Minister David Piccini said.

“My ministry and I have assigned a mediator to the case, who’s available 24/7. We really hope that they land a deal.”

Government House Leader Paul Calandra was also coy.

“(The) City of Toronto is bargaining and I am hopeful that they’ll come to an agreement,” he said.

“Like all of you, I’m listening to what the chair of the TTC is saying. He seems very optimistic that they’ll come to an agreement so, until I hear otherwise, I am going to listen to his words.”

All sides evade questions over possible strike

On Tuesday, Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria would also not be drawn on a potential strike. Asked if he would mobilize Metrolinx to help alleviate the disruption of a strike, the minister simply said he hoped a deal could be reached.

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Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles, who said Tuesday she would not support back-to-work legislation, was evasive when asked if she would help the government rush through any potential strike-breaking law.

“They could easily pass legislation in just a couple days,” she said. “But look, there doesn’t need to be a strike. I happen to know and believe me, I’ve been on both sides of the negotiating tables, neither side wants a strike.”

Mike Schreiner, Ontario Green Party Leader, would not go into detail on whether he would support any back-to-work legislation the government could table.

“I think what we need to first do is avoid a strike,” he said. “Nobody wants the TTC to shut down.”

Ford ‘disappointed’ TTC no longer essential service

Workers on the TTC are only able to strike because two Ontario courts struck down a law that had previously designated them as an essential service and blocked them from walking off the job.

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In May, the Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed the provincial government’s attempt to appeal a lower court ruling that found that classifying TTC workers as an essential service was unconstitutional. Workers classified as essential are not allowed to strike.

A Superior Court judge had found last year that the law interfered with workers’ collective bargaining rights, and the appellate court upheld that ruling in a split decision.

Premier Ford also said he was “disappointed” that the court struck down a 2011 law introduced by the previous Liberal government to designate the TTC as an essential service.

“I’m disappointed the courts would overturn that,” Ford said.

“It would cost the province billions, even the city, billions of dollars. I love our TTC drivers and everyone who works at the TTC but it’s an essential service that can shut down the economy in a big way.”

Ford said that when he was a councillor at Toronto city hall — and when his brother Rob was the mayor — he voted in favour of taking away TTC drivers’ right to strike.

If a deal is not reached between the Amalgamated Transit Union and the TTC a strike could begin on Friday morning.

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