‘Keep Hydro Public’ campaign launched by coalition of 18
Posted: February 17, 2016
(February 17, 2016)
By: Tabitha Wells, Orangeville Citizen
While Premier Kathleen Wynne has refused to back down from plans to privatize Hydro One, Ontarians are not backing down in their disagreement with the move.
A coalition called Keep Hydro Public, which has over 18 groups declared as public supporters (including CUPE Ontario, ETFO, OSSTF and more), officially launched the next phase of their campaign to stop the sale on February 9.
In December, Premier Wynne defended the move in an interview with CP24, explaining that the provincial Liberal government’s decision to sell off 60 percent of the corporation was a difficult but necessary move. Her reasoning behind the move is that it will present an opportunity to generate billions in revenue for infrastructure and potentially improve the operations of the company.
“It is a responsible measure motivated by the need to invest in infrastructure but the second thing is that Hydro One has not been a particularly well-run company,” she said. “Part of this initiative is that it will get us a better company because it will be more efficient, it will be run professionally and we will see improved service — that’s part of the mandate of the new board. That will be a benefit on top of the investments in infrastructure that we will be able to make.”
Naysayers, like Keep Hydro Public, disagree, believing that selling 60 percent of the company into private hands will do more damage to those who use hydro than it will help.
The group’s second-phase campaign launch at Queen’s Park in Toronto earlier this month was used to unveil their next move in the fight to stop the privatization.
“An overwhelming majority of Ontarians are angry about the Liberal’s planned hydro sell-off,” said Fred Hahn, CUPE Ontario president. “This new phase in the campaign will help people already organizing in communities across the province to channel that strong and growing opposition to hold their Liberal MPP to account. It is an MPP’s job to represent their constituents, and their constituents want them to keep Hydro public.”
He added that different campaign materials present the reminder that currently, the sale has not been completed. Although Premier Wynne hopes to sell of 60 percent of Hydro One, 85 percent of it currently rests in public hands.
“It’s not too late to keep hydro public,” said Mr. Hahn.
Those interested in fighting against the sale were reminded at the launch that there are a number of methods Ontarians can use to make sure their Liberal MPPs hear their concerns. Through different people such as the Auditor General, Financial Accountability Office, Chambers of Commerce and other business community members, as well as the 194 municipalities who have passed resolutions which oppose the sale.
The group maintains that these Liberal leaders have the choice to listen to the different groups and join the fight to prevent further privatization of the company. This next phase of Keep Hydro Public’s campaign will roll out mainly in Liberal ridings, with advertising materials and leaflets that will feature the faces and contact information of local MPPs.
Joining Mr. Hahn and CUPE Ontario at the launch were several of their other partners in Keep Hydro Public, which included Ontario Health Coalition Executive Director Natalie Mehra and TTCriders Executive Director Jessica Bell, as well as representatives of many Keep Hydro Public campaign partners, including the Canadian Federation of Students, ACORN, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, the Ontario Federation of Union Retirees, Put Food in the Budget and the Ontario Federation of Labour.
“Like everyone else here, we are in support of investing in infrastructure, but selling Hydro One isn’t the way to do it,” said Jessica Bell, TTCriders Executive Director. “The sale provides less than a drop in the bucket of the Liberals’ $130-billion infrastructure plan, and removes public control over hydro. Coupled with rising hydro rates to pay for investor dividends, that doesn’t make sense at a time when transit is increasingly electric.”
Ms. Mehra added that the group feels the privatization agenda is a broader issue, extending beyond hydro, and is hurting Ontarians. More people are being pushed into for-profit long-term care facilities as well, with hospital services being outsourced to private clinics.
“Health care budgets are already causing a crisis as we see hospital closures, service cuts and growing waiting lists across the province,” she said. “Skyrocketing hydro rates resulting from privatization will only make matters worse. Hospitals and long-term care homes have to pay to keep the lights on and run medical equipment.”
The Keep Hydro Public campaign is set to start over the next few months, beginning the first phase of the roll-out in two Toronto ridings later this month.
“Just like the anger Ontarians feel, we’re not going away until the Liberals stop the hydro sell-off mistake,” said Mr. Hahn.
The Keep Hydro Public campaign is supported through more than 20 community, labour, environment, anti-poverty and student organizations. A full list of supporters, more information about the campaign, and information on how to get involved can be found at the group’s website, www.keephydropublic.ca