Free Transit? Socialist candidate Michael Laxer raises the issue in Ward 6
Michael Laxer, Ward 6 Candidate for City Council, is billing himself as the Real Alternative Candidate. It’s not hard to see why. Laxer, a Socialist candidate, is running on a platform of free public transit, a $15 per hour minimum wage, and the promise to fight the austerity agenda.
Laxer states that free transit should be the “environmental and social goal of any government.” He cites examples like Tallin, Estonia, which in 2013 made all of its public transit free for residents of the city in an effort to reduce pollution and congestion in the city. It has since been hailed as a model program.
TTC prices are currently $3 per ride for adults, a value which is a risen over one dollar in the last ten years. A monthly adult metro-pass is currently $133.75, up from $83 in 1996. It is no surprise then, that the government of Tallin is calling the plan a “13th month salary”, if buyers of monthly metro-passes could save up to $1,605 with a year of free transit.
Laxer is also campaigning to raise the minimum wage in Toronto to $15/hour, up from the current $11—or $9.55 if you’re an alcohol server. The Alliance for a Poverty-Free Toronto sets the poverty line at $18,759, and there are currently 604,050 Torontonians living in poverty. That number is worse for people under 24, with 30% living in poverty, and recent immigrants, 46% of whom live in poverty. All three of these rates are higher than the national and provincial averages. While it’s true that the province is the body in charge of setting the minimum wage, the city can institute their own wage for all city workers, and all outsourced contracts. An increase of four dollars an hour, while not extravagant, could lift countless Torontonians out of poverty.
On a broader level, Laxer is running as an explicitly socialist candidate, and vowing to fight what he calls the Austerity Agenda. He calls out the Fords in particular for wanting to privatise and cut services, while the minimum wage stays so low. According to Laxer the alternative needed to this agenda is Socialism.
Some of Laxer’s other policies include building more co-op and affordable housing, implementing stricter rent control, international LGBT solidarity efforts, increasing police accountability. In light of the current transit, poverty, housing and police issues Toronto currently has, Laxer’s policies make a lot of sense. Isn’t the one quarter of the city living in poverty a good reason to raise the minimum wage, and make transit free? Isn’t the high rate of LGBT youth homelessness reason enough for to build more dedicated LGBT shelters? Was the killing of Sammy Yatim and many similar incidents not reason enough for serious reform of police accountability? From this angle, Socialism doesn’t seem like the fringe ideology it’s made out to be, but just common sense.