TORONTO – The Ontario finance committee this week succeeded in preventing a fire-sale of public assets and services, said Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario, in response to today’s finance committee votes.
“Thanks to the determination of the NDP and countless community activists across the province, the Liberals finally relented to public pressure and amended their ‘privatize everything’ act,” said Hahn. “Schedule 28 was a dangerous piece of legislation that paved the way for more back-room deals like the ones that brought us Ornge and eHealth. Today, that risk is seriously reduced.”
CUPE Ontario has been an outspoken opponent of Schedule 28. Before the Liberals bowed to public pressure, the act buried in the budget omnibus bill would have allowed an immediate fire-sale of public services.
This week, the finance committee voted in favour of dozens of amendments to restrict Schedule 28 to Service Ontario, but the Liberals and PCs conspired to defeat a motion to remove the section from the budget bill altogether.
“Under these amendments, the Act would no longer provide a vehicle for privatizing the delivery of most government services from electricity transmission to local hospital care. The Government’s proposed amendments should be seen as a significant concession to critics who pointed to the dramatic overreach of the initial draft,” says Steven Shrybman from Sack Goldblatt Mitchell, who provided legal analysis on Schedule 28 to CUPE Ontario.
Amendment highlights include:
Restricting Schedule 28 to Service Ontario and requiring a vote in the legislature before the sale or privatization of an asset. However, the amendments still allow huge privatization of Service Ontario and do not clearly restrict services from being added to Service Ontario and then privatized.
Changing schedule 16 so government authority delegated to non-governmental bodies must be reviewed by the Auditor General.
- Deleting several clauses pertaining to interest arbitration that would have made the system more cumbersome and less effective.
“We congratulate the NDP for standing up as long and as strong as they did to protect public services and to keep government accountable. None of these amendments would have passed without their determined stand,” Hahn said. “This is still an austerity budget that will hurt Ontario communities, but thanks to the work of concerned citizens across the province, many of the worst non-monetary laws in the budget were significantly amended or removed.”
The budget bill, Bill 55, is expected to return to the Legislature for final debate and voting Wednesday, June 20.
For more information, please contact:
Craig Saunders, CUPE Communications, 416-576-7316