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There are alternatives to bad Liberal choices

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Dear friends,

Last week I sent an e-mail to top provincial Liberals across Ontario.

They were heading to Collingwood for the party’s annual meeting, and I was hoping they’d help rein in Kathleen Wynne’s privatization plans. So I asked them to pass a motion to stop the sale of Hydro One.

They didn’t. Instead, they are buying the Premier’s spin that if we want to build new transit and other infrastructure, then we have no choice but to sell the assets that belong to all of us.

One riding association president wrote me back. “The sale of PART of hydro one was not made in a vacuum,” she said. “It was a difficult decision. It would have been much easier to do nothing, but would not have been what we need to move forward….

“If you have any brainstorms to complete the tasks that need to occur then state them.”

Well, you don’t need a brainstorm to come up with a better plan than the Premier’s.

The government plans to build $130 billion worth of infrastructure over the next 10 years. But selling Hydro One will only net $4 billion – barely three per cent of the money that’s needed. So where will the rest come from? Well, if you’re the Liberals, it’ll come from cuts to public services. It’ll come from cuts to wages and benefits. It’ll come from more yet-to-be-announced sales of public assets like (for example) the LCBO.

Kathleen Wynne says there is no alternative to this cannibalism. She is dead wrong.

As my friend Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida has noted, this province is richer than ever. There is lots of money around. But the government doesn’t have it. And working people certainly don’t have it.

The people who have money in this province are people like Ed Clark. Clark, the retired banker whose pension is $2.5 million a year, told Wynne she could either keep borrowing money or else sell assets to build the things she wants to build.

I guess she believed him. But what Clark didn’t tell the Premier is this: With two practical steps, she could raise more than $50 billion for infrastructure – and public services – over the next 10 years:

  • Restoring corporate income tax rates to their 2009 levels would raise $23 billion. These tax cuts were supposed to boost business investment and create jobs. It didn’t happen. Business investment is lower this year than it was before the recession.
  • Not using public-private partnerships (P3s) to build all that infrastructure would save $29 billion. According to the Auditor General, P3s in Ontario are costing us more –  way more – than traditional methods ever did.

Decades ago, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher rammed through huge privatizations by telling voters that “There Is No Alternative.” Now Kathleen Wynne is trying the same thing.

But there is an alternative.

The Premier could stop listening to the corporate lawyers, construction bosses, and Bay Street bankers who will be buying new vacation homes with our money. She could start listening to the people of Ontario.

Because the people of Ontario don’t like her privatization plan.

In solidarity,

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

P.S. To read my recent correspondence with Liberal riding associations, click here.

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