On November 14, Premier Kathleen Wynne and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were both in downtown Toronto. They were meeting behind closed doors with some of the richest people in the world, scheming to privatize more of our public services.
OPSEU members were there to raise the alarm, staging a highly visible and noisy “pop-up public meeting” across the street from the privatization conference where Wynne was speaking.
“These private, closed-door meetings are about setting an agenda for our province and our country, one that will make money for a few wealthy folks while leaving the rest of us behind,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “The good news is that people are starting to wake up to what’s going on, and starting to question why we’re handing over our public wealth to private corporations.”
During the public meeting, Thomas released fresh polling information that showed just how unpopular privatization has become. It found that:
- 3 in 4 Ontarians oppose the use of public-private partnerships (P3s) when they learn that Ontario has spent $8 billion too much on public infrastructure projects built with P3s
- 4 in 5 Ontarians believe that since interest rates are so low, the province should avoid P3 financing and simply borrow the money itself to build new hospitals, schools, and transit
- 3 in 4 Ontarians understand that P3s cost us more in the long run
- Nearly 3 in 4 Ontarians are worried that the public loses control over public services and assets when they’re privatized
Representatives from a number of groups joined OPSEU members at the pop-up public meeting. They included Hydro One Not For Sale campaign member Elizabeth Ha, Ontario Federation of Labour President Chris Buckley, Toronto City Councillor Gordon Perks, Sean Smith of Unifor Local 2002, TTC Riders Executive Director Jessica Bell, and Acorn Toronto spokeswoman Alejandra Ruiz Vargas.
After the speeches, many of the those attending decided to take their concerns directly to the privatization proponents meeting at the Sheraton.
Chanting “Ontario is not for sale," and "P3s don't work,” more than a hundred people moved noisily into the hotel’s convention area just as the privatization conference delegates were breaking for lunch. The group demonstrated for more than 15 minutes before leaving peacefully.
Outside, Thomas reflected on the anger and frustration that privatization leaves people feeling.
“Down in the U.S., we just saw the electorate sending a strong, angry message to the political establishment,” he said. “I travel all across Ontario and I see the same kind of anger and feelings of powerlessness here.
“We have to come together and channel that anger and hopelessness into something positive,” he said. “This We own it! campaign is one way of doing that. So keep the faith everybody and stay tuned: we’re just getting started!”