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Standing up to the privatization bullies

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Dear friends:

It was a terrible thing to watch.

This week, some of the richest countries in the world ganged up on Greece, beat it to its knees, and then robbed it.

Like schoolyard bullies, the Eurozone leaders set out to humiliate. In a referendum July 5, the Greek people voted “NO!” to more austerity. The bullies, led by Germany, ignored them. Indeed, the deal that emerged July 12 will punish the Greek people even more than the proposal they turned down a week earlier.

Greece is deep in debt, it’s true, but nothing Europe has imposed on Greece will make that debt go away. The debt will remain. Meanwhile, the Greek people will suffer through an even greater loss of pensions, wages, and public services. And they will lose the assets that belong to all of them.

By now it should come as no surprise that forced privatization of assets is a central plank of Europe’s punishment for Greece. Under the new deal, Greece will have to sell off €50 billion worth of public assets. That’s $70 billion in Canadian money. The Greek people are set to lose ports, airports, and the majority stake in their electricity system to private – and likely foreign – investors.

A small country with an economy half the size of Ontario’s, Greece may not even have $70 billion worth of assets to sell. Which means the least they will lose is everything.

Ontario’s problems pale in comparison. And yet we see the same anti-democratic forces at work here. Despite the lowest program spending per capita of any province, Ontario still has a budget deficit. Created by deep tax cuts under Conservatives and Liberals alike, the deficit has overstayed its welcome, and our debt is climbing. So what’s the solution, according to the governing Liberals? Privatization.

The fact that Ontarians are strongly opposed to the sale of assets like Hydro One appears to mean nothing to Premier Kathleen Wynne. As with Greece, the voices that count are the voices of the bullies. Here at home, that means the banks, corporate lawyers, and construction bosses who use their Liberal connections to get richer off public dollars.

In Ontario as in Greece, the bullies are in charge. But that doesn’t mean we don’t stand up to them. On the contrary, it means we have to. We have to fight the cuts to jobs and services. We have to fight privatization. If we don’t, we’ll never get our province back.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union

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