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Edmonton - A new poll from Environics shows that 64 per cent of Edmontonians disagree with the decision to turn over operations of the proposed South East light rail transit (LRT) to a private corporation.

A coalition of labour groups, public interest organizations and citizens are starting a public advocacy campaign in the lead up to the October municipal elections to challenge City council’s decision to privatize the maintence and operations of new LRT line and the Harper government’s funding condition that the LRT operations must be privatized.

Any candidate that is considering running for City council in October needs to take note that nearly two-thirds of Edmontonians disagree with the decision to privatize the SE LRT,” said Bill Moore-Kilgannon, executive director of Public Interest Alberta. “The fact that 71 per cent of Edmontonians has a concern that the City made this decision in private without any public debate, should also be a wake- up call that voters want input and their council to be open and transparent.”

The poll also reveals that 68 per cent of Edmontonian’s are also “Concerned if a private corporation is running one of the LRT lines then this could lead to problems with integrating operations such as scheduling or ticket prices,” and 59 per cent are “Concerned about a reduced quality of maintenance and service if the LRT line is being run by a private corporation rather than by our public transit system.”

Edmontonians are proud of our public transit system and have many questions and concerns about a private corporation running one of the lines separately,” said Stu Litwinowich, president, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569. “When you remove experience you effectively reduce service and that is a recipe for failure.”

Sixty-nine per cent of Edmontonians agree that, “Letting the LRT be run by a private company means costs will increase since the company will want to earn a profit.” 

“We are concerned with this decision to privatize the LRT because we worry about the impact on users of the system who depend on transit to get around,” said Brendan Van Alstine, spokesperson for the Transit Riders Union of Edmonton. “Unfortunately I suspect this model will end up costing us more in the long run, as the corporation will not be able to borrow money at a lower rate than the City and will certainly negotiate a healthy profit – all of which will come out of the pockets of Edmontonians in the end.” 

Fifty-seven per cent agree that,”Turning over the LRT to a private company means there will be no accountability when things go wrong since I won’t be able to call my councilor.” 

We have seen how numerous public private partnerships [P3s] across the country have failed to deliver on their many promises, and know that the people of Edmonton will not be able to hold anyone accountable if the corporation cuts corners,” said Mike Scott, president, CUPE Local 30. “The federal government should not be forcing municipalities into these P3 rent to own schemes where there is no transparency and accountability to the taxpayers of Edmonton.” 

Sixty-one per cent of people polled “have a problem with the federal government forcing the City to privatize the LRT in order to get federal funding.” 

We are extremely concerned with the way the federal government has tied the hands of our city councillors in order to receive the funding from P3 Canada,” said Brian Henderson, president, Edmonton and District Labour Council. “We are also deeply concerned with the loss of accountability and safety with the whole project being contracted out.” 

As this poll shows that a majority of Edmontonians clearly disagree with the privatization of our public transit system, the OurLRT campaign will reach out to people to make sure we stop this privatization in its tracks,” says Gil McGowan, president, Alberta Federation of Labour. “With an election coming up in October, it is time we have a real debate about the importance of public transit and the many problems with privatizing it.”

The Envrionics Poll of 813 adult residents of Edmonton was conducted February 27 – March 4, 2013 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 per cent, 19 times out 20.

The campaign website has a list of all supporting organizations and more details about the campaign at www.ourlrt.ca.

For more information, please contact:

Bill Moore-Kilgannon

Stu Litwinowich

Mike Scott