The Finch West light rail transit (LRT) project will move thousands of people in Northwest Toronto by the time it is completed in 2023. The project will create 600 jobs during the construction period. Although it brings with it many benefits, the Finch W LRT can be problematic.
The contract signed between Metrolinx and Mosaic Transit Group, the private group who won the bid to build the Finch W line, specifies that maintenance of the LRT will be outsourced. This means the Finch W LRT maintenance jobs may not be unionized nor well-paying. The TTC should both operate and maintain the Finch W LRT as well as all other new transit projects so that good jobs with fair wages and worker protections stay in our community.
Over 20% of workers in the GTA are suffering from precarious employment. When we create good-paying, unionized job opportunities for local residents they will spend their salaries within their communities at local businesses and pay more taxes to fund city services. It is a virtuous circle.
Infrastructure projects like the Finch W LRT are a great opportunity for the government to tackle precarious work. Public sector jobs in transit maintenance and operations on new infrastructure cannot address all of the employment issues in our city but it is a step in the right direction.
This is an exciting time for transit riders. In 2017 we saw the much anticipated Spadina-University line extension to Vaughan open. In 2021 the Eglinton Cross Town LRT will open and by 2023 the Finch West LRT should be fully constructed. Once built, these new lines will make life more convenient for thousands of TTC riders. But these initiatives need to benefit workers as well.
More proposals like the Finch W are gaining popularity and the next five years will be crucial for our cities. Will we invest in the transit projects that riders need while also creating permanent economic opportunities in our communities?
On October 22nd there will be a municipal election. We need to be vigilant and insist our elected officials make this a priority. The time to vote for transit and good jobs is fast approaching. Look up your candidate and let them know you want them to invest in transit and well-paying, unionized public sector maintenance jobs.
Marco Covi is the Chair of TTCriders, Toronto’s largest transit rider advocacy non-profit organization.