I am writing this to urge you to read a new book called Corporatizing Canada: Making Business out of Public Service, edited by Jamie Brownlee, Chris Hurl and Kevin Walby and published by Between the Lines.
The book contains 16 chapters on many aspects of this important and dangerous development written by the top experts in the field in Canada. While they are all excellent, I must give a personal shout out to one in particular. Emma Lui, the Council of Canadians’ national water campaigner, writes a powerful chapter on the danger of governments running water services as if they are a business.
Many of us have fought privatization for years, understanding it to be a vital component of the neo-liberal economic globalization experiment that has failed so many so badly. But we have paid less attention to a parallel threat that has been building in our public institutions. Corporatization is the practice of using a market model to run public agencies, utilities, regulatory bodies and public services. Originally it was introduced to set up a buffer to protect public servants from political interference when governments of different political stripes gained office. But today's corporatization is a way for public institutions and services to act at arms-length from the public they serve and where the needs of the public become subordinate to the economic bottom line. Public services become commodities to be bought and sold and service users are treated more as customers than citizens. Corporatized services are less accountable, less transparent and less democratic than true public services.