Drawing more than 1,000 politicians from 440 communities, the annual conference of Ontario’s mayors and municipal councillors is one of the most important events on the political calendar. We Own It was there, encouraging community leaders to keep their public services public.
“Provincial and municipal elections are happening next year, and we want to make sure that our politicians understand that the vast majority of Ontarians are against privatization,” said Cindy Ladouceur, one of the We Own It mobilizers who attended the conference. “People will vote for politicians who support quality public services.”
Hosted by the Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO), the conference ran from Aug. 13 – 16 in Ottawa. Ladouceur and a number of other We Own It mobilizers set up a booth in the conference’s exhibition hall and spoke with hundreds of attendees.
“The reception was overwhelmingly positive,” says We Own It mobilizer Ram Selvarajah. “The leaders at this conference understand the importance of quality public services that are well run, cost effective, and accountable.
“They understand that public = better.”
A number of politicians approached the We Own It mobilizers, proudly reporting that their community had decided not to privatize such services as hydro, garbage, and water treatment. Niagara-on-the-Lake councillor James King, Oakville councillor Jeff Knoll, Guelph councillor James Gordon, and Kingston Councillor Jeff McLaren all stopped by to say that their communities are reaping real benefits because they’ve decided to keep public services public.
Temiskaming Shores Councillor Patricia Hewitt and East Zorra-Tavistock Deputy Mayor Maureen Ralph are also OPSEU members, and were glad to see their union playing such an active role in the We Own It campaign.
Along with signing up supporters, the We Own It mobilizers were also encouraging councillors to put formal procedures in place to protect their communities from privatization. As outlined in a formal motion being distributed to the councillors, the procedure should ensure:
- Ensure that all financial details of privatization proposals be made public
- That the privatization proposal undergoes a credible and rigourous cost-benefit analysis
- The public be given a meaningful say on the privatization proposal
More than a dozen Ontario communities — from Port Colborne in the south to Rainy River in the north — have already established this procedure, and it’s looking like many more will be following soon.
“Most of the politicians I spoke with liked our motion,” says We Own It mobilizer Dave Doran. “I think we’ll see it passed by many more communities across the province soon.”