Every week, OPSEU's We Own It campaign publishes a newsletter called The We Own It Weekly. It's a round-up of news and information about the growing movement to protect communities from privatization.
And here's the latest issue:
Power to the People!
The famed Conservative politician Sir Adam Beck would be ecstatic: public power has won two significant victories in recent weeks.
In Collingwood, a judicial review has been ordered to look into the murky details behind a scheme to privatize the town's hydro system. And in Peterborough, citizens rallied behind their city-owned hydro system, forcing Hydro One to abandon its attempt to buy it for less than it is worth.
The judicial review in Collingwood was sparked by a growing number of questions about the sell-off of the town's hydro system to a private company called PowerStream. The town got $8 million when it sold the first 50 per cent of its hydro system in 2012. But then it got $13 million when it sold the second 50 per cent last year. According to Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson, that big price difference "makes you wonder."
The review won't likely take place until 2019, but Saunderson and his constituents hope the review will bring accountability and transparency to the controversial sell-off.
In Peterborough, meanwhile, fans of public services cheered when it was revealed that Hydro One has abandoned its attempt to buy Peterborough Distribution Inc. (PDI) for cheap.
"Had the people of Peterborough not been so passionate in their resolve, I suspect the final offer would have been much lower and the conditions far more favourable for Hydro One," said Save PDI volunteer and We Own It mobilizer Joel Usher in the Peterborough Examiner.
In the news
For years, Auditors General across Canada have been sounding the alarm about the cost-overruns and inefficiencies of "public-private partnerships" or P3s. Now, the European Union's Court of Auditors has added its voice, saying in a new report that P3s "suffer from widespread shortcomings."
"Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) cannot be regarded as an economically viable option for delivering public infrastructure," says The European Court of Auditors, which refers to itself as the "Guardians of the EU finances."
The European Union auditors examined nearly 100 P3s and determined the vast majority suffered major cost increases and delays. For example, "almost €1.5 billion extra in public funds was needed to complete the five motorways audited in Greece and Spain."
Decades of downloading by the provincial government has placed a heavy burden on Ontario's municipalities. In the 1960s, they were responsible for 35 per cent of the cost of infrastructure; today, they have to shoulder 60 per cent.
But a York University professor is warning municipal leaders not to be tempted by the empty promises of privatization.
"The privatization of municipal assets and contracting-out of employment has been put forward as a means to restore budgets," writes Carlo Fanelli in iPolitics. "But the evidence of outsourcing and privatization suggests that privatization … has correlated with more expensive infrastructure, reduced public oversight and lower service level provisioning."
Instead, Fanelli points to countries like Germany, France, and Japan where governments have solved their funding shortfalls by making their tax systems more fair.
Amazon's monstrous rise is often hailed as a shining example of private industry.
But the online retailer's success depends on the experience, expertise, and reach of public postal services like Canada Post and the United States Postal Service (USPS).
And as The Nation points out, much of that success is because "Amazon was able to make a deal to ship its packages through USPS at cut-rate prices."
It's taking a toll: more and more USPS workers are suffering, prompting unions and public service advocates to call for new rules concerning packages.
“We welcome the work from Amazon, but we want to make sure we can serve the public without too much stress or injury on our employees,” said Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union, which represents USPS sorters and clerks. “And as of right now, we’re feeling it.”
We Own It Events
Join We Own It at the Windsor Spitfires Game
Tuesday, March 27, 7 pm to 10 pm, WFCU Centre, Windsor, ON
Ottawa Town Hall on Privatization
Wednesday, March 28, 7 pm to 8:30 pm, Nepean Sportsplex, Hall F
Kenora Town Hall on Public Services
Wednesday, April 4, 6:30 p.m., Lakeside Inn, Kenora