It’s almost election time in Toronto again, and much like the last time around, disabled people are finding themselves in the midst of a tug of war for funding and votes.
This time the key issue is transportation, and the ruling class has learned that it can no longer shut out disabled people entirely through the use of force, closing committees, and selling off public housing. Instead there’s a new tactic in play: divide and conquer through the use and denial of public funds.
First they came for the public transit system. It was days after the Ontario election, and just before the last meeting of the City of Toronto’s Disability Issues Committee prior to the municipal election; the perfect time for the Toronto Transit Commission to announce that it did not have enough funds to meet its accessibility requirements. The TTC suddenly realized it had a $240 million capital shortfall, just in time for the vote on the provincial budget. It wasn’t hard for disabled people and Ontario’s MPPs to see right through that.
When plan A failed, they came for the workers; specifically accessible taxi workers. These workers are contracted out to Wheeltrans, Toronto’s door-to-door alternative to the TTC. Through negotiations between Wheeltrans and the accessible taxi brokerages in Toronto, the latest contract has dropped drivers’ guaranteed pay from $2.86 to $2.50 per kilometre, which works out to about seven dollars per hour with very long days. Now more than 80 per cent of the drivers are on strike until they get their old fees back.
The City of Toronto is looking to use disabled people for political games ahead of an election. We cannot let this happen. If disabled peoples stand with workers instead of against them, something positive might actually come out of this election.