An overwhelming majority of Toronto city councilors voted July 6 to maintain the city’s publicly owned and operated electrical utility.
“As this council nears the end of its term, it has sent a powerful message to those who will be elected on October 25, including our new mayor,” said John Camilleri, president of CUPE Local One, following the 30 – 6 vote. “This council has recognized what the residents of Toronto already know – that we are all better off with public power.”
Local One represents about 1,250 workers at Toronto Hydro. The motion approved by council reads: “Toronto City Council unequivocally indicate(s) that as Toronto Hydro is a necessary instrument to achieve Toronto’s environmental, economic development and financial objectives, it is not in the public interest to sell all or any part of it.”
“Our financial issues cannot be addressed by a fire sale of assets, which contribute to future generations,” said councillor and mayoral candidate Joe Pantalone, who first introduced the motion during an executive committee discussion of potential “monetization” of city assets.
A large audience including members of Local One and representatives of CUPE locals 416, 79, 4400 and the Toronto and York Region Labour Council heard councillor Glen DeBaermaeker declare: “I’m very proud of Toronto Hydro. We’re making a profit. It’s in public hands run by public employees.”
Even councillors not normally seen on the side of workers and their unions heaped praise on the utility, whose sole shareholder is the City of Toronto. Gloria Lindsay-Luby reminded her fellow councilors that “Toronto Hydro is Toronto’s and not anybody else’s” while also criticizing the provincial government for its rumoured plan to sell shares in public assets through the creation of a super-corporation.
Citing a recent Nanos poll that showed 66 per cent of Torontonians oppose selling the utility, councillor Michael Thompson said, “The people don’t want Toronto Hydro used as the band-aid to stop the bleeding of the city.”
As Pantelone noted, the real solution to Toronto’s financial problems will come when the province starts paying its proper share of programs like transit, court services and housing, which were downloaded under the Mike Harris government.
“Publicly-owned and delivered electricity has helped Toronto prosper,” said Camilleri, whose local and others lobbied hard for a positive vote. “Toronto Hydro keeps the lights on for everyone – and returns millions of dollars to our city every year. When we pay for electricity, we’re paying ourselves.”