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ATU Canada Locals Push National Transit Strategy on Parliament Hill

Since taking the helm as President of ATU Canada in late July, it’s clear that John Di Nino is on a mission to unify our members from coast to coast as One Voice, One Canada, One ATU!  Our Union and Locals across the country face many challenges, and we are preparing by training our leaders and members, developing a unified strategy, and taking action.

Among the biggest issues we face is the fight against privatization, which is threatening transit agencies and other public services across our country. We have seen this fight before, as our Locals in Ontario have been waging a Keep Transit Public campaign in the province. 

Charting a course for ATU Canada’s future

In October, the ATU Canada Executive Board, in conjunction with the International, began a transition period in order to take ATU Canada in a new direction to better serve our Locals and members across the country.  

Over a two-month period, they completed an operational review of ATU Canada, developed leadership training and a plan to move forward, and rebranded the look and feel of ATU Canada to build greater awareness of ATU Canada and engage members through social media.  

In addition, recognizing the needs of our Locals and the campaigns that lie ahead, two National Organizers were hired to effectively support all Locals across Canada.  They’re already busy creating a war room to chart ATU Locals and associated rider groups across the country, and are ready to start moving forward to build alliances across Canada.


Another area that deeply needed attention was Stewards Training.  We were pleased to receive so many requests for this important training. “Having personally served as a steward for 15 years, I understood the urgency and necessity to deliver this training as soon as possible to give our members the representation that they expect and rightfully deserve,” says Di Nino.  In just under two months, ATU Canada, working with the International, started to deliver training, which began in Vancouver, British Columbia, then headed east to Hamilton, Ontario, training members from 14 different ATU Locals, more than a third of ATU Canada Locals.

ATU hits Parliament Hill for Lobby Day

In late November, more than 50 members from Locals across Canada came together in Ottawa for Lobby Days. To ensure they were prepared to maximize the impact of these visits on Parliament Hill, members received a full day of essential training on Political Action for Public Sector Unions, facilitated by Bill Cole, an expert specializing in negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. Cole is  a Senior Research Associate in the Labor & Work Life Program at Harvard Law School. This extensive training provided useful tips, exercises, and role-playing scenarios that demonstrated effective ways to keep lobby meeting discussions on track. The role playing was instrumental in preparing our teams for the real meetings.    

As we’ve heard before, knowledge is power, and it’s essential that we continuously educate our members. “Lobby Days was a perfect opportunity to give members political action training, but what we’ve really given them... are take away tools that they can go home with and use to lobby in their own communities,” Di Nino says.

In preparation for these Lobby Days, ATU Canada arranged meetings for Local leaders from across Canada with the most influential Ministers and their Members of Parliament (MPs). The ATU Local leaders  were armed with information to discuss key emerging issues impacting ATU and our members, including the Greyhound exit in western Canada, the Ontario Government’s announcements regarding plans to upload and privatize the TTC, and the attempt to make changes to the Metrolinx Act through an Omnibus Bill 57.    

More than 30 meetings took place, and ATU leaders were strategically assigned based on their Locals.  The strategy was not only to lobby Members of Parliament from the sitting government but also to lobby opposition leaders who could then become advocates and critics for ATU to create dialogue in Parliament.  

Groups of 3-4 ATU members were assigned to each scheduled meeting to give all ATU leaders lobby experience.  At each meeting, the ATU team left the Minister or MP a document with ATU’s National Transit Strategy calling for Dedicated Operational Funding.  In addition, three pre-addressed letters were left with the Ministers or MPs to sign during our meetings. These letters endorsing ATU’s National Transit Strategy with Dedicated Operational Funding were addressed to the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change.  The ATU leaders also invited the Ministers and MPs to attend ATU’s meet-and-greet event that evening.

Overall, the Lobby Days were a great success in making the voice of ATU Canada and our members heard across Parliament Hill, but it is just the beginning, as we now must engage our members, our riders, and allies in the fight for more, better, and safer public transit across our great nation.