/ Because now it’s about looking forward. /
With the Halifax Metro Transit bus strike downshifting to a much-too-long awaited end, we find ourselves out of the contractual weeds and into a much larger conversation about the health of our public transit system, and questions about whether stronger leadership from City Hall could have made for a less painful collective agreement negotiation, or even have outright prevented the strike.
Throughout the negotiations, most mayoral candidates took a play-it-safe approach and declined to publicly wade into the issue. The exception to this would be Tom Martin, who last week called for binding arbitration to end the strike. While I admire Mr. Martin’s willingness to face the tough question, I won’t fault the other candidates for not coming out in support of a specific solution. No one had all of the details laid out for them, and so without all information, it might have been a little hasty on Mr. Martin’s part to call for one specific solution over another. I’d like to think decisions like this would be made with all cards on the table. (Yes, admittedly I pushed for solutions; at least I settled on a creative and collaborative one. And I’m not running for mayor).
But now is the time for all mayoral candidates to come out and talk public transit.
I want to know what each of the candidates, if they were mayor, would do to thank the public for their patience, and to recognize their suffering.
How would they address Metro Transit’s obvious organizational and infrastructural shortcomings?
What have each of the candidates learned about HRM and its relationship with the people under its employ?
Are the mayoral candidates happy with the current bus routing, fares, level of tax subsidization, efficiency, accessibility, management, and long term efficacy and viability of Metro Transit?
How will they prevent this same thing from happening the next time ATU 508′s collective agreement with Metro Transit expires?
While I can excuse the relative silence that most candidates have chosen to observe on Metro Transit’s contract negotiations, I will not excuse any candidate for remaining silent while the municipality is in recovery mode over a trying, costly, and emotionally defeating transit strike, and the many questions that remain about how this crucial public service is run now, and how it will be run in the future.
Be sure to listen to my interview with one of the organizers of the newly-formed Halifax Transit Riders’ Alliance. The HTRA aims to push for improvements within the public transit system.