Toronto residents are facing the possible loss of decades of investing in their electricity infrastructure through piecemeal privatization of Toronto Hydro, says CUPE Local One, which represents workers at the utility.
“Toronto Hydro plans to solicit expressions of interests from companies that may wish to purchase its subsidiary, Toronto Hydro Telecom,” said Pauline Niles, Local One president. “This is an extensive fibre optic network reaching from Mississauga to Pickering — and the largest WiFi network in Canada — that belongs to the people of Toronto.
“It is a betrayal of the public interest to even consider privatizing yet another piece of one of the city’s greatest public assets, especially at the same time as Toronto Hydro is getting ready to activate time-of-use meters. Where is the sense in selling the infrastructure that provides the data from the smart meters? Is Toronto Hydro going to turn around and buy back the data from private owners?”
The people who keep the lights on — Toronto Hydro workers — are concerned that the municipally owned utility will be privatized piece by piece, she said, noting that last year Toronto Hydro sold its 85,000 water heater customers to Consumers Water Heater Income Fund.
“We need to keep our electrical utility wholly public, not only to ensure that the public investment and public good is protected, but to make the most of opportunities to conserve electricity. The water heater program would have been a perfect chance,” said Local One Vice-President Victor Demelo. “We know that private corporations are not in the business of selling less. They will do everything they can to maximize consumption and profits.”
Niles and Demelo said that their union is monitoring ongoing debate and discussion about the City of Toronto’s current financial crisis because of concern that pressure will grow for the total sell-off of this important public asset in exchange for short-term financial gain.