Thousands crowd into We Own It telephone town hall

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas and First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida with other panelists for the We Own It telephone town hall, Feb 28, 2017

Libby Keenan’s outraged Facebook post about skyrocketing hydro rates earned her headlines across the province, and an invitation in January to the premier’s office. The premier assured Keenan, a horse breeder from outside Windsor, that her concerns would be addressed.

But during one of two We Own It telephone town halls earlier this week, Keenan said she thinks the privatization of hydro is a big part of the problem, and signed up to support the OPSEU-led campaign.

We Own It telephone town hall on Feb. 28, 2017

“Just after Christmas, I got a real shock when I opened my Hydro bill and it had gone up a whole lot. At the same time, I saw on Facebook that the Hydro One CEO was making $4 million a year,” Keenan told the nearly 2,000 people participating with her in the town hall. “I've learned a whole lot about privatization over the past couple of months. If we keep privatizing, the only people who will be able to afford to live here will be the rich.

"I want to know: what’s the best way for us to fight privatization?”

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas congratulated Keenan for speaking out, and encouraged her to keep on speaking out.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years of activism, Thomas said, "it's this: Keep on campaigning. If you don’t stop campaigning, eventually your opponent is going to give up and do the right thing.”

In the case of hydro rates, doing the right thing means reversing the sell-off of Hydro One, said OPSEU First Vice President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida.

“Stopping the privatization of Hydro One would be bold,” he said. “It’s time for our politicians to be doing bold things for people instead of bold things for corporations and the rich people controlling them.”

Along with Thomas and Almeida, We Own It mobilizers Marjorie Nelson and Erin Smith-Rice were also on the call. So were members of the public and members of other groups worried about the damage privatization is doing to our communities.

“We’re calling for an end to bottled water in Ontario because bottled water is a form of privatization,” said Mike Balkwill from Wellington Water Watchers, which is trying to stop multinationals like Nestlé from getting our water. “Their advertising is designed to reduce confidence in tap waterpublic water — so that they can profit.”

An active member of ACORN Canada, a national social justice organization, was also on the call. “Privatization is an issue that is close to our heart,” said Alejandra Ruiz Vargas. “That’s because privatization always means fewer services for those who need them most.”