We're not for sale!
November 21 2012
When you apply privatization and outsourcing to public
services it all adds up to the same thing: Profit for a few and job
losses for many. Worse yet, it brings inferior services to all.
Trade unions oppose privatization due to the immediate
and permanent impact on jobs, but there is more to consider. When
services suffer, so do the communities served. The evidence is all
Right-wing attacks about entitlements, wages and
pensions are thinly-veiled attempts to take over key parts of civil
society, namely its public services. Why? The right wing knows their
money can be made by squeezing profits from services at the core of
They use a simple formula. Reduce wages, eliminate
benefits, slash jobs and scoop the resulting short-term profits. They
see community services as the means to profits by turning government
into a business. Yet history shows how business comes and goes with the
passing of time.
Think about what marks the growth of civilization. Do
history books recount the way merchants set up markets or money changers
set their rates? No! History marks progress through the development of
laws, public roads, water systems, courts and public buildings. Instead
of ancient marketplace stalls, history looks to the viaducts and roads
of Rome, some of which are still in use today. Why? Because the later
were public projects built for the good of all. They were built to last.
I have asked right-wing politicians to provide examples
of privatization accomplishing the goal of great service at a lower
cost. I have yet to receive an example. The right wing is blind to
history and facts. Tory leader Tim Hudak and his allies have blinded
themselves by drinking their home-brewed privatization Kool Aid, They
distill it to divide communities against their own interests. With it,
anger and jealousy grows (they hope), prompting a move to the right. We
see this technique in use today both here and in the U.S.
I respond to this by noting the deaths in Walkerton or
the substandard and high-priced services provided by Accenture and
Andersen consultants. I follow with privatization flops like Ontario’s
driver’s examiners and road maintenance. And what about public money
lost through E-Health and ORNGE?
What of P3 projects (like hospitals) that cost billions
more than if they were built with public funds? This is the true results
of privatization. All roads lead to waste.
This proves one thing. Profits for the few are drawn
from a public purse owned by all of us. Taxpayers lose part of their
deductions to waste. Everyone loses community services and democratic
accountability. Worse yet, beyond structural issues, is when people die
or suffer injury from drinking water or traveling an unplowed highway.
The cost to society is huge. And who pays for that? Again, the costs
come from society rather than the few who benefit.
When services go from public to private hands
accountability ends. Accountability is critical to service recipients,
taxpayers and the principle of a just society. Accountability lets
society direct costs and liability to those who caused the damages.
Accountability is the way we assure we are getting the services we need,
rather than the ones that provide the greatest profit.
Ontario needs greater accountability. Only accountable
government allows voters to throw mismanaging politicians from office.
CEOs, on the other hand, are answerable only to their
shareholders. Shareholders are usually satisfied by greater profits and
dividends so this is hardly a way to deliver quality public services.
All this approach brings is a situation where those at the top get rich
while the rest of us go to bed knowing our services aren’t what they
used to be, even as we pay more for them.
Public services are society’s great equalizer. They
support the middle class and those struggling to get to the middle
class. After all, we built Main St. and made it work. Our board of
directors is a government democratically elected by the people. Our
shareholders are the people of Ontario. That’s how democracy works.
That’s why all OPSEU leaders, local activists, sector
chairs, staff and members must continue to protect and promote public
services…one contract at a time.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President