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London chapter at 59th weekly sit-in vs Hydro One privatization

The Council of Canadians London chapter protested at Ontario Deputy Premier Deb Matthews’ constituency office against the privatization of the publicly-owned provincial electricity utility Hydro One for the 59th week in a row today.

The outreach for today’s sit-in noted, “59th WEEK!!! Party at Deb’s Place! A ‘DebYouTaunt’ Ball. WEEKLY HALF HOUR HYDRO ONE NOT FOR SALE SIT-IN. MPP Deb Matthews Office, 242 Picadilly St., London. Friday December 23, 2016, 12 noon to 12:30 pm. Let Deb Matthews know that this sell-off is a Bad Idea.”

The London chapter was also present at Matthews’ office this past Wednesday. The outreach for that had noted, “Hydro rates got you down this Holiday season? Well you’re not the only one! Recently CBC covered a story about families unable to turn on their Christmas lights due to the outrageous prices of Hydro. Shame! The good news is: Premier Kathleen Wynne admits this energy crisis is ‘her mistake’. We think it’s time for this Liberal Government to take responsibility and clean up this mess they’ve created. Please join Hydro One Not For Sale & We Own It for a quick half hour event. We’ll enjoy some hot chocolate and good company while driving home our import message to the Liberals: Hands off our assets!!!”

Earlier this month, the Canadian Press reported, “The Canadian Union of Public Employees said that its lawsuit against the Ontario premier and two Liberal cabinet ministers over the sale of Hydro One is finally headed to court. CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn said the suit, officially filed on [December 6], is aimed at stopping the sale of any more shares in the giant electricity transmission utility before private owners have control of its board. The government has already sold about 30 per cent of the shares in Hydro One, and plans to sell another 30 per cent to raise a total of $9 billion to pay down debt and to fund public transit and infrastructure projects.”

That article adds, “In September, CUPE served the Ministry of the Attorney General with a notice of intent to sue Premier Kathleen Wynne, Finance Minister Charles Sousa and former Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli for misfeasance. The union claims the Liberals inappropriately mixed government and party business by holding fundraisers with cabinet ministers, including one $7,500-a-ticket event with Sousa and Chiarelli that was attended by bankers who profited from the privatization of Hydro One. Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake found that Sousa and Chiarelli may have benefited politically by attending the fundraiser with bankers involved with the sale of Hydro One, but they didn’t contravene the Members’ Integrity Act. However, he also said the legislature should consider clarifying the law to include the apparent conflicts of interest, not just actual ones.”

In a Toronto Star op-ed this summer, Linda McQuaig noted, “Internal polling done for the Wynne government — released under Access to Information — found that 73 per cent of Ontarians oppose the government’s plans to privatize Hydro One, the key transmission arm of the original public utility. It’s striking that Ontarians still favour public ownership, given that the dominant ideology of our times has vilified government and the public sector, while celebrating the alleged superiority of the private sector. …In privatizing, a government surrenders important levers over public policy, and it’s hard to imagine an area where surrendering control is riskier than energy.”

Related to that, hydro privatization has trade implications too. Lawyer Steven Shrybman has argued, “There is a very serious concern with respect to the impacts of privatizing Hydro One, in light of Canada’s obligations  to foreign investors and service providers under international trade law.” He notes, “In respect of transmission and distribution services, such measures [that could be challenged for offending investor rights] could include a mandatory obligation to connect renewable energy generators, to prioritize interconnections with other provinces rather than the United States, to conduct environmental assessments for new facilities, or to protect habitat in citing or maintaining those facilities.”

For other blogs about the London chapter’s campaign against the privatization of Hydro One, please click here.