The recent OPSEU Convention was a great one. More than 1,600 delegates, alternates, and observers from OPSEU locals came together in Toronto to help set our union’s course for the year ahead.
Seldom have I seen our local leaders so united around a single issue, or so determined to do something about it.
That issue is privatization.
Premier Kathleen Wynne and her Liberals were supposed to be progressive. They are anything but. As far as I can see, their main reason for being in government is to transfer public wealth to their own well-heeled supporters. And privatization is their preferred way to do it.
Liberal supporters are cashing in. Construction companies, corporate law firms, lobbyists, and bankers have never had it so good.
They make money when they take over public services, like information technology or medical lab testing.
They make money when they manage and finance big public construction projects.
And they make money if they get to buy public assets like Hydro One or other parts of our electricity system.
I don’t mean they make a tidy profit. I mean they make out like bandits. And they expect you and I to pay.
OPSEU members know what’s going on. At Convention, delegates gave our executive board the authority to do whatever it takes to put the brakes on privatization in Ontario.
We are already taking action. We’re speaking out about the Liberals’ budget bill as they try to ram it through the legislature. We’ve joined forces with other groups who oppose the sell-off of our electricity system. And we’re putting together the tools and plans OPSEU members will need to push back against privatization.
It’s not an uphill battle by any means. The public is on our side on this one.
I know this in part because of public opinion polls. But I also know it because of how the Liberals talk about privatization.
They can’t say the word.
If you look through the recent budget, you won’t see “privatization” anywhere. The Liberals talk about “unlocking the value of Provincial assets.” They talk about “asset optimization.” They even have the gall to talk about “broadening ownership” – when in fact they want to narrow ownership by handing our assets over to private interests.
The reason the Liberals have to talk in code when they talk about privatization is simple: it’s not popular.
People know the Highway 407 deal was a colossal rip-off. They know what happened with Ornge, our provincial air ambulance system. And they know that the privatization of highway maintenance under the Liberals has most likely killed people.
OPSEU has plenty of experience in defending public services and the public interest. In the weeks and months ahead, your union will be reaching out to locals and members to carry us forward in the struggle against privatization.
The fight is on. Please join us!
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union