Protecting people and communities from privatization isn’t easy. But during a We Own It town hall meeting in Peterborough October 24, OPSEU Region 3 Regional Vice-President Sara Labelle told a crowd of concerned citizens, journalists, and city councillors not to give up hope.
“I’ve been fighting against privatization since I started working in health care nearly 20 years ago. It’s a fight we have to keep fighting, but it’s also a fight that we can win,” Labelle said. “If communities stand up and fight for their services, they can win.”
Labelle encouraged the attendees to focus on the kind of community they could create if governments at all levels had enough to invest.
“Right now, we’re losing millions upon millions of dollars to privatization,” she said. “If we invested that money instead in our healthcare, our schools, and our social services, imagine the kind of community we could have.”
People in the audience agreed.
“Our politicians need to realize that investing in public services is economic development,” said one woman. “That money goes to people right here in Peterborough. They spend it here. They pay taxes here. It’s much better than giving that money to private companies, because who knows where that money goes?”
Peterborough City Councillor Diane Therrien, who was also a panelist at the town hall, said that precarious work is a hallmark of privatization.
“I’m a millennial, and people in my generation are in a world of precarious work, living paycheque to paycheque,” she said. “It’s no coincidence that the rise of privatization coincides with this rise in precarious work and rising income inequality.
“Good, full-time jobs disappear when public services are privatized.”
Hydro One Not For Sale and Save PDI member Joel Usher said that when we allow our public services to be privatized, we give up control over our communities and our lives.
“Privatizing hydro is about selling off our power, and I’m not talking about electricity here,” Usher said. “I’m talking about our political power, our influence. We have to take back our power.”
Moderator Andrea Gordon wrapped up the event on a positive note.
“There are two Peterborough city councillors here tonight, which helps makes this evening a success,” she said. “If everybody here goes and talks to a friend or a neighbour about our movement to save public services, the word will spread, and we’ll stop privatization.”