7 News Archive
Stop TTC fare increase

By Ulli Diemer

“Facts,” the American revolutionary Tom Paine once proclaimed, “speak louder than arguments.”

The sentiment applies to the latest in a never-ending series of increases in TTC fares, scheduled to go into effect next month after the Progressive Conservative provincial government refused the necessary subsidy to keep fares frozen.

Just what are the facts?

Fact 1: The amount of provincial subsidy needed to keep fares where they are now would be about $6 million.

Fact 2: The government says it doesn’t have the money to help the TTC.

Fact 3: The same week as it refused help to the TTC because “there is no money in the provincial coffers”, the provincial government announced a $100 million handout to the pulp and paper industry. Profits in that industry are at all-time record highs: the profits of the top 15 companies in the industry increased by 94 per cent in the first 9 months of 1978 compared to the first nine months of 1977.

Fact 4: The same day as it refused to help the TTC, the provincial government announced that it would support the building of a STOL airport on the Toronto Islands. The sole purpose of the STOL service is to provide business flights between Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. The service would save businessmen time because they wouldn’t have to travel all the way out to Malton for their flights. STOL would result in environmental damage to the Toronto Islands, and would pave to way for the conversion of the Island Airport into a full-scale commercial jet airport. The most favourable study of a STOL service, done by the federal government, is main promoter, indicates that it would lose between $50 million and $52 million over a ten-year period. That works out to $5 million or so a year, almost enough to (for example) cover the cost of the TTC subsidy.

The facts speak fairly loudly. What they say is this:

The problem is not lack of money. The problem is that governments are using the taxpayers’ money to subsidize corporate profits and business conveniences at the expense of social needs as transit, health care, and education, all of which are being viciously cut back.

Governments apply a double standard. They demand that public transit pay for itself and that health care and education be judged by ‘cost-benefit’ analyses. But they apply no such standard to industrial policy where billions of dollars are shelled out, supposedly to create jobs, even though in fact corporation are axing jobs, not creating them, while their profits continue to climb at an even faster rate than the unemployment figures. In the area of transportation itself, public transit and automobile transit are judged by completely different standards. Public transit is supposed to pay for itself “from the farebox” but automobiles are not expected to pay for road construction and maintenance, let alone for related costs such as pollution and car accidents. Gasoline taxes, the main way in which car use is taxed, are, as the government itself admits, far too low to cover even their share of the basic costs of road construction and maintenance.

Even someone who isn’t a cynic might easily come to the conclusion that the government policy has little to do with ‘objective economic facts’ or ‘rational decision-making’, let alone with justice or the wishes and needs of the people.

What the government policy does seem to relate to is power, as it was summed up in the novel Catch-22: “They can do anything we can’t stop them from doing.”

Perhaps we can stop them. The first step (but only the first step) might be to follow John Sewell’s suggestion to bombard Premier William Davis’ office with letters and phone calls telling him he’d better change his mind if he wants to keep his job. Politicians have a remarkable talent for finding reasons for changing their minds if they think they’re in danger of losing power.

The address for letters is:
Premier William Davis
Legislative Assembly
Queen’s Park

The number for his office is 965-1211

Published in Seven News, Volume 9, Number 20, 24 February 1979.

Related topics:
Government Spending
Public Transit
Toronto Island Airport
Urban Transit
Corporate Welfare