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>Aug 25, 2000
|August 25, 2000
A slur on a community
Corrections Minister Rob Sampson’s comments in the Toronto Sun last week stirred up a huge hornets’ nest in Penetanguishene and Midland. Once again, "Mr. Public Relations" has inflamed the community in a lame attempt to take a shot at OPSEU. The following editorial appeared this week in the Midland Free Press, and is re-printed here with permission.
When it comes to local reaction to the Penetang super jail, either Ontario Corrections Minister Rob Sampson isn't paying attention, or he's doing what his government does so well – finding a scapegoat. While in some ways it might be preferable that it be the former, we suspect it's the latter.
In a Toronto newspaper last Friday, Mr. Sampson essentially accused local anti-private jail group Citizens Against Private Prisons of being a tool of union interests.
"It looks as though, unfortunately, the title should be OPSEU Against Private Prisons, not Citizens Against Private Prisons," Mr. Sampson was quoted as saying "OPSEU is using the veil of another name…. Just come clean and stop hiding behind the name."
The article discussed how the citizens' group had received funding from the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents prison guards, many of whom will lose their jobs when the super jails in Penetanguishene and Lindsay open in coming years, replacing more than a dozen aging facilities across the province. OPSEU first opposed the concept of the super jails, and has since taken up the battle of heading off privatization of the Penetanguishene jail.
In the Friday article, officials with the union as well as Sharon Dion, chair of the citizens group, quite readily admitted OPSEU has provided funding to the group in its fight against privatization. From that funding link, Mr. Sampson has extrapolated – at least for the prints – that the union is calling the shots. However, Mr. Sampson can't help but recall the depth of feeling against privatizing the jail he saw on display at a public meeting he attended last spring. Hundreds of local residents turned out to speak on their behalf. They weren't paid to be there or handed a script written by OPSEU. They were quite sincere in their opposition.
At one time the community of Penetanguishene and its neighbours generally supported the town's bid for the jail, which it eventually won. But it wasn't until last November, well after construction had started, that Mr. Sampson announced he would accept private bids for its operation when it opens in 2001. Their support melted quicker than a snowball on a hot plate, because many in the community, including onetime supporters, didn't like the idea of a private company handling day-to-day operations.
No one – at least until now – has suggested that the thousands who opposed privatization were anything but sincere. Mr. Sampson knows damn well that they are. To suggest that the deep well of opposition to his privatization plan springs from union manipulation is a flat-out insult to the thousands who have as much right to their opinions as Mr. Sampson does to his.
It must have been rather disconcerting for Ms. Dion and her group to discover they're mere union lackeys. But they'd do well to remember they're dealing with a government that considers itself infallible; one whose first instincts, when facing opposition, is to blame a union or group it believes it can steer public unrest toward. Because it never makes mistakes, there has to be someone or something else to blame.
Quinte protestors stronger than the weather
Whoa, did it ever rain.
But the weather did not dampen the spirits of approximately 75 demonstrators who turned out at Quinte D.C. to protest private jails.
Members from Local 467 were joined at the demo by OPSEU Executive Board members Bob Eaton and Ron Marston, as well as local Liberal MPP Leona Dombrowsky. Ms. Dombrowsky took time out from her appearance at the Ontario Plowing Match to show her support. Members also arrived from Local 341 (Millbrook C.C.), Local 521 (Mimico C.C.), Local 460 (Pathways for Children and Youth) and Local 427 (Kingston Probation and Parole).
Tom O’Neill, president of Local 467, was pleased with the turnout. "I want to thank all the members from the local who put in such a huge effort organizing and planning this demo. It couldn’t have been accomplished without their hard work."
The press was also out in force, and the protest received excellent coverage in the area. And in case Rob Sampson is called for comments, we just want to say this: Rob, the union did help fund this event. For additional pictures, click here.
Don’t forget the "Brook"
Next Wednesday, August 30, 2000 Millbrook C.C. will be hosting their privatization demonstration. Guests include OPSEU president Leah Casselman, CAPP chair Sharon Dion and Liberal Corrections Critic David Levac. This is going to be a hot one so be sure to attend!
Len has Mono
No need to send a get-well card. Our Resolution Warrior has got the Town of Mono on board with other communities opposing privatized corrections. That brings the total to 86, thanks to Len Mason, president of Local 737 (Thunder Bay Jail).
For campaign information, call Don Ford (ext. 442) or Carol Whitehead (ext. 356) at