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London chapter calls on city council to oppose privatization of Hydro One

London chapter rally

Yesterday’s rally. Photo by Kevin Jones.

The Council of Canadians London chapter rallied yesterday afternoon to encourage London city council to oppose the sale of Hydro One.

On Jan. 25, AM980 reported, “The Hydro One Not For Sale campaign is hoping London joins nearly 200 other municipalities in passing resolutions against the government’s planned sale of Hydro One. The Liberals are hoping to raise $9-billion by selling 60 per cent of Hydro One to help fund infrastructure and pay down the hydro debt. Campaign spokesperson Darlene Faulds is asking concerned Londoners to attend a rally at city hall between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.”

The London chapter has been very active on this issue.

On Jan. 22, the chapter and the Hydro One Not for Sale campaign staged a sit-in at Deputy Premier and London North Centre MPP Deb Matthews office to oppose the privatization of Hydro One. In Dec. 2015, the chapter utilized street art and began placing large cut outs of geese and eggs around their community. The message: don’t sell the goose that lays the golden egg. That’s because Hydro One turns over about $750 million a year to the province, but that revenue will be cut if Hydro One is privatized. And on May 28, 2015, the chapter also participated in a provincial day of action against the privatization of Hydro One.

As noted in the news report above, the provincial government wants to sell 60 per cent of Hydro One. The government believes it can raise $9 billion from the sale and use $5 billion of that to pay down debt in the electricity sector and $4 billion to build new transit lines. The Council of Canadians, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the National Union of Public and General Employees, the Ontario New Democratic Party and many others oppose this privatization. Toronto MPP Peter Tabuns says the sale will harm rate-payers given the sell-off will attract some of the biggest multinational energy corporations in the world.

The Liberal government’s legislation to sell Hydro One could also reportedly allow local electrical distribution companies to expand their businesses into areas such as water and wastewater services. Trade lawyer Steven Shrybman has raised the concern that the privatization of Hydro One could result in future investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) challenges against provincial measures that, for example, require environmental assessments for new facilities.

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.”

To date 15 per cent of Hydro One has been sold.

More soon on the outcome of yesterday’s city council meeting.