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London chapter at ‘Power Line of People’ protest

Photo by Hydro One Not for Sale – London chapter.

The Council of Canadians London chapter took part in the ‘Power Line of People’ protest outside the deputy premier’s constituency office on September 16 against privatizing the publicly-owned electricity utility Hydro One.

In April 2016, The Globe and Mail reported, “The [Ontario] government on [April 30] will unload a second 15-per-cent tranche of the massive electricity utility, bringing to 30 per cent the share of the company that has been sold in less than six months. [Premier Kathleen] Wynne ultimately plans to sell 60 per cent. The privatization has proved highly controversial, and having it completed before the province goes to the polls [in 2018] could help defuse it to some extent as a ballot issue – alleviating a major political headache for the governing Liberals. Polls repeatedly show more than two-thirds of Ontarians are against the sell-off.”

The protest on September 16 was the 46th week of protests at Deputy Premier Deb Matthews’ office in London.

The London Chapter of Hydro One Not For Sale promotion for the protest highlighted, “On Friday September 16th at noon we will form an unbreakable chain of people surrounding Deb’s office to demonstrate our opposition to the Liberal plan of selling Ontario’s most prized asset: Hydro One. The vast majority of Ontarians are NOT OK with this privatization plan, yet the Government plows forward with no mandate and no regard for the needs of it’s citizens! Let’s stand together and show Deb Matthews we refuse to be ignored; Hydro One belongs to us – we own it!”

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.”

Earlier this week, the Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario announced it was suing the Ontario government over the sale of Hydro One.

CBC reports, “CUPE president Fred Hahn says the union’s lawyers served the Ministry of the Attorney General on [September 13] with notice of intent to sue. CUPE claims the Liberals inappropriately mixed government and party business by holding fundraisers with cabinet ministers for up $10,000 a plate, including one attended by bankers who allegedly profited from the sale of Hydro One shares. The union says it’s using the lawsuit to argue that shares of the electrical transmission utility should remain in public hands and that the sell-off, which began last year, is opposed by most Ontarians.”

You can read about the CUPE Ontario “Keep Hydro Public” campaign here.