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Member protest challenges privatization czar

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas and First Vice President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida joing the Hydro One Not For Sale protest outside of Ed Clark's speech to the Canadian Club
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“Don’t you dare privatize eHealth.”

That was the message from close to 30 OPSEU members who protested outside a speech by ex-banker Ed Clark on October 17.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas and First Vice President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida joing the Hydro One Not For Sale protest outside of Ed Clark's speech to the Canadian Club

Clark, the Bay Street brain behind beer in grocery stores and the selloff of Hydro One, is Premier Kathleen Wynne’s privatization czar. The government has asked him to do a “value assessment” of the provincial electronic health records system. Clark’s study of eHealth is widely seen as a prelude to privatization.

“Privatization is the defining issue of the time,” OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas told the crowd. “The rich and powerful want it. We’re going to stop it.”

Monday’s protest was part of a growing movement of people who recognize privatization for what it is: an easy way for the rich to get richer at public expense. OPSEU has been helping lead the movement from the start; the union will launch its major anti-privatization campaign, “We own it!”, next month.

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“I’d like to thank OPSEU for the incredible commitment they’ve shown to fighting all forms of privatization, including the privatization of Hydro One,” said Hydro One Not For Sale chairperson Rosario Marchese.

The protest drew some media attention, including several mentions during a one-on-one interview the Business News Network did with Ed Clark after the event.

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When questioned about the growing anger over the fact that hydro rates have spiked since privatization, Clark claimed that “to all neutral observers, the privatization has been a spectacular success.” In fact, a whole host of neutral sources, including Ontario’s Financial Accountability Officer, have raised red flags about the privatization.

On the issue of the privatization of eHealth, Clark and Wynne are now claiming they have no plans to sell Ontarians’ health information. But before they announced the sale of Hydro One in 2014, Wynne repeatedly claimed she had no plans to sell Hydro One.

After the protest, Thomas and First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida attended Clark’s speech. They weren’t surprised to hear Clark claiming that young people today actually prefer precarious work to job security. “Clark called it the ‘Silicon Valley mentality,’ and he said that young people today are happy to work three- and six-month contracts,” said Almeida.

“Well, I said, ‘Does that mean bankers like Clark are going to start offering them mortgages even though they don’t have a steady paycheque?’ A lot of people at our table looked at me and said, ‘You’re right! That doesn’t make any sense.’”