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At the CUPE national energy sector meeting, held in Winnipeg in November, representatives from a number of locals gathered to discuss issues affecting the production and distribution of electrical energy. CUPE National President Paul Moist and the National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury attended the meeting and addressed the delegates.

Although the situation differs from province to province, privatization and deregulation are constant threats.

Focusing on the situation in British Columbia, professor John Calvert summarized many of the issues relating to energy. He demonstrated that, when it comes to energy production, putting our trust in the market and competition is a dangerous approach; privatization leads to supply problems and significant cost increases. Despite that, we are now witnessing a form of “quiet privatization” in British Columbia, where all new developments in electricity production are in the hands of private enterprise.

Lynne Fernandes, from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives - Manitoba, gave a presentation on the forces currently promoting privatization in Manitoba. She also talked about the failure of deregulation in Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia.

Some of the discussion covered the impact of international trade agreements on the sector. For example, CETA (the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement currently under negotiation with Europe) poses a danger to our public services. CETA opens the door to privatize public services and put them in the hands of for-profit corporations. Some clauses in the agreement will make it increasingly difficult to protect our Crown corporations, and even give foreign private companies the right to sue our governments.

On a more positive note, there was a presentation on the CUPE campaign in Manitoba to keep Manitoba Hydro under public control. This campaign definitely had an impact on the last election, publicizing the fact that 90 per cent of Manitobans prefer to keep Manitoba Hydro public.

A representative from Manitoba Hydro gave a presentation on the energy efficiency programs implemented by the corporation.