People power could short circuit Premier’s plan to  sell off  Hydro One

PEOPLE POWER COULD DO IT. It could get Kathleen Wynne to pull the plug on her plan to privatize 60% of Hyrdo One.  It has already forced the Ontario premier to admit she failed to see or appreciate the impact the plan was having on the everyday lives of all Ontario.

Wynne told a Liberal party meeting in November 2016: "I take responsibility as leader for not paying close enough attention to some of the daily stresses in Ontarians' lives. Electricity prices are the prime example."

The average hydro bill in Ontario jumped by 16% in 2015. New approved billing procedures drove bills even higher. In one instance a user was charged $12,474 for using just $267.80 of electricity. More that 60,000 citizens were cut off power due to non-payment of bills. 

The direct impact this had on peoples’ lives was deep and dramatic. The Liberals tried rate cuts and tax rebates. But every “fix” they came up with did little to reduce public resistance to the plan.

Anger, anxiety, anquish, resistance

Wynne promoted the selloff as a way to help the people of Ontario. That’s not how it turned out. Many thousands have suffered in ways large and small: some, like Marsha Depoiter, of Bancroft Ontario, even lost their homes because paying their electric bill left them without enough to pay the mortgage.

Kathy Katula sobs as she gets a hug from Prime Minister Trudeau after she told his public meeting in Peterborough in Janurary 2017 the cost of her hydro bill was $1085 a month—an amount higher than her whole mortgage

Kathy Katula sobs as she gets a hug from Prime Minister Trudeau after she told his public meeting in Peterborough in Janurary 2017 the cost of her hydro bill was $1085 a month—an amount higher than her whole mortgage

Most tragic of all, the high cost of electricity took Kenny Taylor’s life. He burned to death when a gas generator he was refilling exploded. He had been using the generator to provide electricity to his home. He resorted to the generator because he could no longer afford to buy electricity from Hydro One.

Public opposition quick and lasting

Public opposition to the Liberal selloff was quick to start and has proven durable determined and imaginative. It ranges from a highly organized and professional province-wide campaign to highly personal individual efforts.

Canadians for Tax Fairness Study Suggests Changes Needed at Canada Revenue Agency

A study from Canadians for Tax Fairness suggests that the effectiveness of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is being undermined by a lack of resources and by political interference.

According to the study, politicians and lobbyists are able to influence the CRA. That includes lobbying CRA not to prosecute corporations for tax evasion. At the same time, $700 million in funding cuts between 2011 and 2015 reduced the ability of the CRA to deal with large-scale tax avoidance schemes. 

Offshore tax schemes estimated to cost federal and provincial governments $10 billion a year

Among the consequences of staff and funding cuts outlined in the report is that the CRA is not able to deal with the abuse of tax havens by large businesses or wealthy individuals. Most reports suggest that there is $199 billion of Canadian money in tax havens. Canadians for Tax Fairness has estimated that failing to deal with tax avoidance involving tax havens means Canadian governments are losing $10 billion a year in tax revenue.

We can’t afford not to have quality public services

In the 1930s and 1940s, our parents and grandparents learned the hard way that investing in quality public services was necessary to support and encourage growth.

Now we are having to learn that there are no shortcuts. As a recent article in the Winnipeg Free Press made clear, when governments cut corners problems follow.

Underfunding of public services is only part of the problem. As the author makes clear, when outsourcing is proposed as a solution to underfunded public services, the situation can become far worse. In many cases, privatization schemes that were meant to save money have required expensive bailouts.

What does protect the public are measures like Manitoba’s Public-Private Partnerships Transparency and Accountability Act. Under this legislation, governments have to demonstrate that privatizing public infrastructure will save money and improve service.