Thomas calls on all parties to stop privatization

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas speaking into a microphone during the We Own It Town Hall in Kingston

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is calling on politicians on all levels and from all parties to publicly renounce privatization and P3s. 

“The evidence is clear: privatization costs more and delivers less,” Thomas told a public meeting on privatization on February 6 at St. Lawrence College. “We’ve had to endure one privatization disaster after another in this province – the 407, the gas plants, and of course, hydro.

“Privatization has already cost us billions upon billions of dollars. It’s time to put an end to it.”

More than 100 people took part in the meeting, the majority of whom expressed concerned about the damage privatization is doing to public services. Thomas encouraged them to get involved with We Own It, a grass-roots campaign against privatization that OPSEU is supporting. “Our goal is to force politicians at all level and all parties to come out against privatization.”

woi_kingston_town_hall_23.jpg More than 100 people took part in a We Own It campaign public town hall in Kingston on February 6 about the privatization of public services.

Thomas was joined on stage by a number of politicians, including two Kingston city councillors, Mary Rita Holland and Jeff McLaren.

Both councillors declared their personal opposition to privatization, and both also vowed to push Kingston City Council take an official position against it. They also committed to push council to back away from plans to use a P3 scheme to finance its new “Third Crossing” bridge over the Cataraqui River.

“With the make-up of council right now, there’s a real possibility that we’d be able to pass a motion opposing privatization,” said Holland.

McLaren agreed, but noted that when the Third Crossing was first proposed, council at the time directed city staff to craft a funding proposal using the P3 privatization model.

“Council directed staff to look at the P3 model, but we have a real opportunity to change that,” said McLaren. “There’s a vacancy on council right now. If we can elect another progressive councillor, we’ll have a majority on council and we’ll be able to direct staff to abandon the P3 model.”

Also taking part in the town hall was Melissa Coenraad, a lab technician from the Ottawa area who says that privatization of medical lab testing doesn’t just cost more money, it also costs public safety.

“A woman who works at one of the private labs told me that recently, the quality control indicators on a batch of 30 tests came up as a ‘fail.’ That means the tests probably didn’t work. They probably weren’t accurate,” Coenraad told the crowd. “The woman asked her supervisor if she could run the tests again, but the supervisor said no because it would cost too much.

“So those test results, which probably weren’t accurate, went out to doctors and their patients. That’s what privatization means. That’s why privatization shouldn’t be allowed to happen.”

Essex MPP Taras Natyshak echoed Coenraad’s concerns, and congratulated the people who’d come to the meeting. “Everybody in this room, you are the first point of protection for quality public services,” he said. “It’s during meetings like these that we’ll be able to fight back.”

Manitoba MP Niki Ashton, who was also a panelist, challenged the attendees to “think big” and to work actively through campaigns like We Own It to stop privatization and even in-source public services and assets that have previously been privatized.

“In my home community, Churchill, Manitoba, they privatized the port back in 1997. Now, the American billionaire has shut down the port and says he won’t reopen it without public subsidies,” says Ashton. “Well, the solution here is obvious. We need to take our port back. We need to nationalize it.”

Thomas encouraged the crowd to remain optimistic that privatization can be stopped and even reversed.

"I invite everybody here to sign up on our We Own It campaign," he said. "Together, we’ll keep our public services public."