The London chapter of the Council of Canadians and Hydro One Not for Sale staged a sit-in this morning at Deputy Premier and London North Centre MPP Deb Matthews office to oppose the privatization of Hydro One. This is the twelfth weekly sit-in at her constituency office and activists pledge to continue until Matthews commits to opposing further privatization. Armed with banners and visual props, activists use the opportunity each week to raise awareness of the issue and to attempt to secure appointments with Matthews.
The Council of Canadians opposes the privatization of Hydro One. The Ontario government has already sold 15% of shares in the public utility and intends to sell a total of 60%. Hydro One raises $750 million in profit for the province each year and public ownership is essential to keeping electricity prices low and ensuring public oversight. More than 80% of Ontarians and 195 municipalities oppose the sale, along with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario, the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), the Ontario New Democratic Party (ONDP) and many others.
The London chapter is particularly concerned about how privatization will open Ontario to greater liability under free trade deals. Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses included in many trade deals allow corporations to sue governments if legislation or policies interfere with profits. Under the NAFTA, American corporation MESA power sued the Ontario government for $775 million because local producers of energy were given preference to produce jobs under the Green Energy Act’s FIT program. The London chapter has raised concerns that privatizing Hydro One will allow corporations to combat regulations that promote local job creation or preference renewable energy sources. The auditor general and provincial ombudsman have both expressed concern that they will no longer have oversight over Hydro One. With Canada considering new free trade deals like CETA and the TPP, privatization of energy is a serious concern.
On January 19th, chapter activist Roberta Cory presented to the Corporate Services Committee of the London City Council. Cory urged them to join other municipalities in opposing the sale and to consider that this “issue has a great weight not merely for what we want to accomplish now in our city, but for… the kind of choices our children and grandchildren will be able to make about their energy futures.” City Councillor Anna Hopkins will bring forward a motion to encourage the City of London to purchase shares in Hydro One on Tuesday, January 26th. The London chapter and allies will be holding a large rally outside City Hall and will pack the gallery. For more information, please visit the Facebook event.