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Fort Frances councillor: We Own It is ‘a good movement’

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The Fort Frances Times covered the We Own It presentation made to Fort Frances town council on March 15 by OPSEU Local 735 President Melissa Pearson. The article is reproduced below courtesy of the Times.

Council urged to support 'We Own It'

Wednesday, Mar 15, 2017

By Duane Hicks

OPSEU Local 735 is among the many Ontario unions taking a stand against ongoing privatization with the “We Own It” campaign.

Local president Melissa Pearson addressed town council at its regular meeting Monday night to explain why public services are better than private ones, as well as ask for its support of “We Own It.”

“Public services and assets like highways, hospital labs, and hydro are being sold off to generate profits for private corporations instead of serving our communities,” Pearson noted.

Privatization only means higher costs and poorer service, she added.

Pearson said public services save money. Private contractors need to make money so what they charge for products and services is more than their actual cost.

Publicly-delivered services often are non-profit or if for-profit, the profit made then is reinvested.

“You pay more both as a taxpayer and directly when we have private services,” Pearson charged.

Public services also are better quality, she asserted.

“Private contractors often sacrifice quality of service in order to cut costs because they're focused on, or they have to prioritize, making a profit,” Pearson argued.

“Cutting corners or under-investing in their services is a result.”

Public services also are more accountable.

The Ontario Auditor's Report noted private contractors charged the public more than $8 billion too much, by renegotiating contracts, mismanaging budgets, and hiking fees.

Failure to meet obligations, corruption, and bid-rigging are some other problems experienced with private contractors.

“Private companies are not democratically accountable to us so it makes it harder to complain or have a voice, as well,” Pearson noted.

Public services also are safer. Unlike in the private sector, public-sector costs aren't cut at the cost of public safety, she stressed.

One of the best examples is MTO's privatization of winter road maintenance, which Pearson feels has resulted in road conditions being much worse and an increase in accidents and fatalities.

Another example is the government's move to put wine and beer in grocery stores.

Pearson said while it might seem convenient to get a bottle of wine with your groceries, it is not a good thing.

LCBO staff deal with some dangerous customers and work in some unsafe situations—but they also receive training to deal with such situations.

Allowing wine and beer sales in grocery stores means these customers may be frequenting grocery stores, where people are shopping with young children and the elderly.

But it also means less money for the government to pay for services, reduces the social responsibility when it comes to the sale of alcohol, and has people who are not trained adequately selling spirits.

“These services that are being threatened by privatization are services that we rely on every day, and some are very heavily relied on,” Pearson said.

“Not to mention our community needs good jobs to flourish, so removing public-service jobs from our communities does not help, either,” she added.

“These services are vital for the life and economy of our town.”

The “We Own It” campaign has had successes in keeping public services going. Recently, the government nixed plans to cut hours at the ServiceOntario centres in Atikokan, Terrace Bay, and Ignace.

“This is great news for northern residents," said Pearson. "We deserve to have the right to same public services as other residents in this province.”

She also noted municipal councils and local business associations were on board with OPSEU in this fight.

“We, as people, have incredible power and are far stronger than we imagine," Pearson remarked. "And this is proof of what can happen when we come together for a common cause.”

Coun. Wendy Brunetta said “We Own It" is "a good movement.”

“It's great you guys are fighting for jobs in your province,” she remarked, noting council did pass a resolution in support of the ServiceOntario office in Atikokan.

Pearson asked council to support a motion to recognize that “the public delivery of public services ensures more transparency and accountability to the public, democratic oversight and control of public service delivery by our community's elected representatives, and avoids the diversion of public funds into profits for private corporations.”

The motion also asks for the town to “call a moratorium on privatizing or outsourcing any of its public services without first undertaking a rigorous, credible, and fully public and transparent review of the privatization or outsourcing proposal.”

As well, it calls on the town to “review current privatized and outsourced services with a view to in sourcing them in order to lower costs and/or improve services.”

Council referred the motion to the Administration and Finance executive committee for its recommendation.