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The real political cover-up is privatization, and Conservatives share the blame


Toronto – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says that if Premier Doug Ford wants to get to the bottom of “the biggest government scandal in a generation,” he’ll set sights on privatization and the political insiders getting rich because of it.

“The privatization of public services is the biggest rip-off we’ve ever seen in this province. It’s how public dollars end up in private pockets,” said Thomas. “Liberal and Conservative cronies are getting rich off privatization, and the rest of us are left with a $15-billion deficit and services that are shoddy and dangerous.

“I sincerely hope the legislative committee that the premier announced this morning won’t just be a witch-hunt against his political enemies in the Liberal party. He could actually bring honesty and integrity back to Queen’s Park by having the committee investigate privatization and all the insiders profiting from it.”

Thomas points out that the Auditor General examined a number privatization projects called “public-private partnerships” or “P3s,” and determined they led to more than $8 billion in extra costs to Ontario tax-payers.

Many of those P3s were authorized by Liberal Premiers, and Thomas said there’s plenty of evidence of close connections between Liberal powerbrokers and the people who benefitted from privatization deals. 

An OPSEU publication from 2015 called “It’s in their DNA” tracks many of those Liberal connections stretching back decades. (See Quick Facts below, and the original document here)  

“None of these Liberal insider connections should come as a surprise to anybody,” said Thomas. “When we published ‘It’s in their DNA,’ we sent a copy to all our MPPs, including Finance Minister Fedeli.”

But Thomas said the Liberals weren’t the only party to enter into questionable privatizations. He points out that it was the Mike Harris Conservatives who sold off Highway 407 for billions less than it was actually worth.

Much more recently, Thomas said that a Conservative operative connected with Ford’s own campaign appears to have profited from the privatization of retail cannabis sales. 

Will Stewart was once chief of staff to former Conservative MPP and MP John Baird, who was a member of Ford’s transition campaign. 

Stewart has since become involved in the cannabis business as a lobbyist and executive. Last month, he wrote an op-ed in the Toronto Sun in which he identified himself as vice-president of the cannabis retailer Hiku Brands, which was recently acquired by Canopy Growth for a reported $250 million.

Thomas urged the new premier to act.

“Doug Ford is right: there is a huge political cover-up that is costing taxpayers billions of dollars. It’s called privatization and it’s time to put an end to it.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931

Quick facts from It’s in their DNA

  • Construction giant EllisDon founder Don Smith raised $11 million towards Liberal Premier David Peterson’s electoral win in 1987. Smith’s son Geoff Smith later became EllisDon president and CEO and a director of the Canadian Council for Public Private Partnerships. Between 2010 and 2014, EllisDon contributed $158,675 to the Ontario Liberal Party.
  • Before becoming President and CEO of Infrastructure Ontario, Bert Clark worked for Liberal Premier McGuinty and also served as a managing director at Scotiabank Global Banking and Markets, which was involved in six P3s totaling $4.2 billion. Between 2010 and 2014, Scotiabank donated $37,925 to the Ontario Liberal Party. 
  • Bert Clark’s father is Ed Clark who used to be President and CEO of TD Bank Group, which was involved with 11 P3 contracts totaling $1.8 billion. Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne named Ed Clark to her advisory council on government assets, which recommended the privatization of Hydro One, OPG, and the sale of beer and wine by grocery corporations. Between 2010 and 2014, TD Bank donated $31,375 to the Ontario Liberal Party.