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London chapter at 78th consecutive sit-in against Liberal government’s privatization of Hydro One

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 78th week in a row on Friday May 12.

The outreach for the sit-in highlighted, “78th Week!!! Hydro One Not for Sale Sit-In at MPP Deb Mathews’ office, May 12, 2017. These actions will continue every Friday at noon except for holidays until the sale of Hydro One is cancelled! JOIN US!”

In October 2015, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne confirmed that up to 60 per cent of Hydro One, the publicly-owned provincial electrical transmission and distribution utility, would be sold for $9 billion. Shares in the utility first went on sale in November 2015.

The London chapter has argued against the sale saying public ownership is the best option, there is no evidence that private ownership leads to cost savings, rate payers could face higher costs as transnational corporations buy shares in the utility, and that Hydro One turns over about $750 million in revenue annually to the province that is reinvested in schools, hospitals and other critical infrastructure.

Furthermore, Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom has commented, “Of all the maladroit moves Wynne has made as premier, privatizing Hydro One is the worst. It creates no economic benefit for the province. Nor does it help the government’s finances. In fact, as the Financial Accountability Officer and others have pointed out, the loss of lucrative Hydro One dividends will ultimately cost the provincial treasury more than it gains.”

On May 11, The Globe and Mail reported, “Ontario’s move to unload a $2.8-billion stake in Hydro One Ltd. has hit a standstill after investors balked at the stock sale, leaving underwriters with as much as half of the shares unsold. The province’s cash-strapped Liberal government announced the huge offering [of 120 million shares on May 8]… But tepid investor demand for the issue means the underwriters, led by Royal Bank of Canada and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, were holding as much as $1.4-billion worth of stock as of [May 11], according to people familiar with the situation.”

After last week’s offering of shares, the province now owns between just 47.8 to 49.9 per cent of Hydro One.

The Globe and Mail adds, “The sale of Hydro One shares has been politically unpopular for Ms. Wynne, whose support has flagged ahead of an election next year, partly due to concerns over sky-high electricity prices.”

A Forum Research poll conducted on May 9-10 found that the Progressive Conservatives now lead in popular support (with 41 per cent, which would equate to a majority government with 72 seats in the 122 seat legislature), the Liberals trail behind (at 28 per cent that would give them just 25 seats – significantly down from the 57 seats they now hold), and the New Democrats are in third place (23 per cent with 25 seats).

Both the Ontario PCs and NDP are opposed to the privatization of Hydro One.

The next provincial election will be held on or before June 7, 2018.