The Future is Public! Kingston event examines democratic control of public services

 
Last week I travelled to Kingston to talk about my chapter on water in the new book Corporatizing Canada: Making Business Out of Public Services
 
The event in Kingston,The Future is Public!, was a double book launch featuring Corporatizing Canada and Our Common Wealth: The Return of Public Ownership in the United States by Thomas Hanna.
 
The event summary notes, “Privatization is deeply unpopular in North America and has been fought successfully. But if the anti-privatization movement only thinks defensively the best we can do is protect the status quo. Reclaiming public ownership, and rethinking the ways in which public services are delivered, is a crucial part of building a more equitable and sustainable public services future.”
 
I talked about how governments are changing to adopt corporate models when it comes to water management and gave examples of the Ontario and B.C. government continue to give the green light to Nestle and other bottled water takings. I raised concerns about Public-Private Partnerships, the new Canada Infrastructure Bank and how they can hinder the human right to water as well as how frontline communities are promoting water as a human right and commons through the internationally expanding Blue Communities Project, with Berlin, Germany as one of its newest members. 
 
Thomas described his book which is a “comprehensive and up-to-date analysis of the scope and scale of U.S. public ownership, debunking frequent misconceptions about the alleged inefficiency and underperformance of public ownership.” He offered excellent food for thought on how we can take action to work towards new forms of democratized public ownership, spanning various sectors, for communities to begin creating new systems beyond corporate capitalism.
 
David McDonald, contributor to Corporatizing Canada and Professor in Global Development Studies at Queen's University, gave an overview of inspiring initiatives around the world to keep municipal services and utilities public and democratic. McDonald talked about the 835 municipalities that have remunicipalized services and the Future Is Public conference, which took place in June in Montreal, laying groundwork for building a pro-public movement. The two day conference included union leaders, activists, researchers, and community groups and speakers included Ellen Gabriel, Maude Barlow, Miriam Planas, Cindy Blackstock and Avi Lewis.
 
Participants asked engaging questions and raised important points including how adequate public services like water, sanitation and education have been out of reach for many Indigenous nations in Canada and the need for Free, Prior and Informed Consent as outlined by the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the provision, operation and management of community services. 
 
A pressing water issue in Canada is the drinking water advisories in First Nations. There are five drinking water advisories in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory only 45 minutes away from Kingston. One of the DWAs have been in place for since 2003 - 15 years ago - and three have been in place since 2008.
 
The event showed that we can draw inspiration and examples of initiatives around the world that resist the corporatization and privatization of water and bring back democratic control rightly in communities’ hands. 
 
The event was hosted by Global Development Studies at Queen's University, Kingston & District Labour Council and the Council of Canadians.

A pressing water issue in Canada is the drinking water advisories in First Nations. There are five drinking water advisories in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory only 30 minutes away from Kingston. One of the DWAs have been in place for since 2003 - 15 years ago - and three have been in place since 2008.