BY TAMMY FLORES
I have been asked so many times which political party I support. I always answer by saying that I am nonpartisan. Truth be told, it frees you to speak truth to power because you don’t toe a party line and you are in a better position to reason with hot headed, furiously partisan people that are whipped into frenzy over their party loyalties based on sound bites they pick up in the media.
One of the most recent sound bites that make me go … uh… is when I hear partisan politicians using the sale of Highway 407 in their argument to sell Hydro One. Is that even a valid argument? How can you throw the sale of one public service to the private sector, in the face of an opposing party, over another public service you are privatizing? Things that make you go … uh!
I have heard some people try to make the sale of Hydro One seem more important than the sale of Highway 407 by pitting the services against each other and arguing that you can choose to drive on Highway 407 whereas you can’t choose your electric service provider. That may be true however; the need to travel has been around since ancient times. We are talking about centuries of history, building infrastructure to support travel, while electricity is a new invention we can’t seem to live without.
Electricity was invented as early as the 1700’s and became popular in the 1800’s when they realized they could use it for lights. Electricity still didn’t really become popular until the 1930’s. Not even a century later, about 85 years later, we say it’s a necessity.
That’s the point isn’t it? Our quality of life is at stake when our governing authorities make decisions about services we have come to view as a necessity. One service isn’t more important than another. Our quality of life is affected when there is a change in how things are done.
My nonpartisan concern over the sale of Hydro One is that when it is sold into the private sector, the government will be powerless to do anything if the private company starts to exploit people, using questionable business practices to part you from your money.
We see what the track record is for how this administration dealt with 407 ETR’s billing issues. That’s why we are in the courts, dealing with it ourselves because the government has no say over a private corporation’s business. At least that is what we are told by this administration.
We see the track record over how this administration has been promising lower insurance rates. Our Finance Minister can do as many press conferences as he wants, telling us how much they are doing to change the insurance industry. Truth be told, they can’t do a thing if the insurance industry decides they aren’t going to kowtow to the government’s requests. As a matter of fact the media has reported insurance companies raising rates rather than lowering them.
We see the track record over how this administration dealt with the billing issues Hydro One had. Because the company was in public hands, former Ontario Ombudsman, Andre Marin was able to investigate consumers’ complaints. He made it crystal clear the challenges the public had with the company, calling dealing with Hydro One’s billing fiasco “like wrestling with a slippery pig”.
The Provincial Ombudsman can no longer investigate billing issues with Hydro One and shed light onto the problem because the Province is privatizing the services.
If it wasn’t for Andre Marin’s report, we would never have known the torture people were going through over billing inconsistencies. It was like Hydro One took a page out of 407 ETR’s play book. The public, for the most part, remains in the dark with respect to 407 ETR’s billing nightmare because the Province has not been able to investigate consumers’ complaints.
The fight to reign in 407 ETR has fallen to the public to expose. We have to resort to court action to bring the balance we need. This is not cheap. We are thankful for the lawyers out there interested in access to justice issues that are willing to help us out of this mess. If it wasn’t for these lawyers, there would only be more exploitation because the Province is allowing 407 ETR to distribute the billing on the extension of Highway 407.
So now we are full circle. How is throwing the sale of Highway 407, into the face of an opposing political party even an argument when you are still doing business with the same company the highway was sold to? It makes absolutely no sense to me at all. A nonpartisan solution is the only answer. If the government is going to privatize our public services, it’s up to us to keep these private corporations in check. The government has washed their hands of any responsibility for how these corporations behave. Be prepared.