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The word deregulation wasnt used once in the interim report on last Augusts blackout, but deregulation clearly caused the lights to go out in much of Ontario and northeastern United States, says CUPE.

Such events occur when we allow corporations to place a higher regard on profit and power than on the safety of the public, CUPE Ontario Secretary-Treasurer Brian OKeefe told the Canada-US Power System Outage Task Force at a public forum held December 8 to review its interim report. OKeefe made the presentation on behalf of CUPE National and the Ontario Division.

Regardless of the specific events that occurred on August 14, the root causes of the blackout were deregulation and its sidekick privatization, CUPEs submission noted.

In a publicly-owned system, any profits stay in the system and are used to keep rates affordable, pay off debt, maintain reliability and promote economic development, OKeefe said. In a privately-owned system, producers want to sell electricity at the highest prices. Power shortages mean higher prices and, therefore, higher profits.

The CUPE submission called for:

  • vertically integrated public power systems operating throughout Canada. Public power provides about 80% of electricity in Canada but only 25% in the United States. However, with increasing pressure to deregulate their electricity systems, Canadian jurisdictions are being drawn into the tangled web woven by energy corporations south of the border.
  • an improved Canadian grid. East-west electricity co-operation is far preferable to north-south integration when it comes to reliability of power and accessibility.
  • a secure, affordable supply of electricity with stable and fair prices for consumers. With some of Ontarios finest generating stations sold off to private corporations, consumers are bearing the cost of profits flowing into corporate coffers.
  • democratic control of our electricity systems. Deregulation takes away public accountability.
  • much broader public hearings as part of the Joint Canada-U.S. Task Force and a real debate about deregulation and privatization. CUPE and others appearing at the public forum were given five minutes. And, as John Wilson of the Ontario Electricity Coalition pointed out, the task force working group is stacked with deregulation cheerleaders and beneficiaries.
  • an end to continental integration of electricity markets and the exclusion of electricity from trade and investment deals like GATS.