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NEWS: Public hearings demanded on McGuinty’s Bill 55 privatization agenda

CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn

CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn

The Globe and Mail reports, “The Ontario government plans to outsource major services to the private sector, including the delivery of birth certificates and driver’s licences. The desire to shift additional services from bureaucrats to private, not-for-profit entities is spelled out in the government’s 351-page omnibus budget bill containing amendments to 69 separate pieces of legislation. …In addition to outsourcing services, the budget bill would allow the government to pass a regulation delegating oversight for such things as motor-vehicle inspection stations, the mandatory vehicle emissions inspection program known as Drive Clean, and private career colleges to an administrative authority.”

In a media release, CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn says, “On top of budget cuts to services that would make Mike Harris blush, Dalton McGuinty is bringing in legislation to permit the backroom privatization of almost every public service in the province. The premier must change his course, because Ontarians deserve better.” Hahn has also stated, “This is a 327-page bill amending 69 different pieces of legislation. Just one of those, if passed, would permit cabinet to act behind closed doors to privatize any crown corporation or government service, all without ever coming before the legislature. Surely that warrants more public scrutiny than the bill has had to date.” CUPE has called for public hearings on Bill 55.

The Globe and Mail adds, “The New Democratic Party is concerned that the government is ‘pushing the envelope’ on public-private partnerships, according to insiders. NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson told reporters on Wednesday that his party is happy to help the government fast-track its fiscal measures through the legislature, including a new surtax on the rich and a freeze on corporate tax cuts. But he said his party needs more time to scrutinize the government’s plans for greater private-sector involvement in delivering services. The government wants to privatize services using the same model as Ornge, the province’s scandal-ridden air ambulance service, Mr. Bisson said. But this is not something the public is ‘clamouring’ for, he added.”

“The government plans to introduce a time-allocation motion next week on Bill 55, now in second reading, to ensure that the budget bill passes before the legislature adjourns on June 7. But with a minority in the legislature, it faces an uphill battle.”

CUPE has commissioned a legal opinion on the impacts of Bill 55, including Schedule 28 the ‘privatization’ schedule and hopes to release it early next week.