Friday, January 6, 2006

The LTC runs afoul of the Human Rights Commission

The London Transit Commission faces the dubious prospect of complying with an Ontario Human Rights Commission ruling that could force the LTC to expand its criteria for qualifying for paratransit service. The London Free Press reports that the LTC fears the order could expand the number of Londoners who qualify for the service tenfold and would cost taxpayers as much as $27 million. The LTC may appeal the ruling, but according to commission member Sandy Levin,

[t]he only defence against a human rights complaint would be that the added cost would cause London "undue hardship."

[…] If an order is made and London council doesn't fully fund added costs, the transit commission will have to cut back services for paratransit, conventional transit or both, Levin said.
Whether the increased service is funded or whether service is cut back, there will be very few winners and very many losers. That makes it pretty typical of an Ontario Human Rights Commission ruling. It should not need to be said, but there is no "right" to use public transit. However, there is no case not worth hearing, no privilege extracted at the expense of others that can't be called a "right," to a Commission that does not bear the cost of its rulings and whose every "broad and generous interpretation" of its mandate justifies its own continuing parasitic existence. Unelected and accountable only to its abilities to test the limits of extracting regulatory and financial concessions without bankrupting the goodwill bequeathed to it by the benign and friendly sounding "human rights" moniker, the Commission has improportionate powers to shake down Ontarians for completely arbitrary or politically-motivated purposes. It is telling that the only defence the LTC can muster is the burdensome cost — well, is it a "right" or not? Cost should not be a consideration if the issue is really one of rights. On the other hand, it is no more arbitrary than the impossibly vague and self-serving definitions of "rights" that the Commission uses. Are we really better off when "rights" themselves are competing?

I stated before that there is no "right" to use public transit, but unquestionably the fact that transit is public confuses the issue. Although the government should not discriminate against anyone, its confiscation of a non-essential service and labelling it "public" obscures the distinction between opportunity and privilege. There is no pressing need for the government to run an effective monopoly on mass transit, or for it to be involved in transit in the first place. There would undoubtedly be fewer debacles of this kind if private enterprise were to be allowed to operate in proper spheres.