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CUPE Ontario’s mobile School of the 3Ps was greeted in Ottawa Nov. 3 with a lesson from union leaders: make privatization of public services an election issue at every level.

It’s appropriate that this great exhibit is in Ottawa today,” CUPE National President Paul Moist said, “because earlier this week Justice Gomery reported on one of the biggest scandals involving privatization of the public realm.” Moist called on Prime Minister Paul Martin to meet with NDP leader Jack Layton and bring in rules to stop the privatization of health care – or face the wrath of voters.

Ottawa is also the home of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, who ran in opposition to P3 hospitals and then broke his promise as soon as his government was elected, Moist said.

The city itself is a leader in Canada in bringing public private partnerships to the municipal level, said Sean McKenney, president of the Ottawa and District Labour Council. From proposals for a P3 library to a P3 transit system, from outsourcing Hydro Ottawa’s call centre to New Brunswick to contracting out CUPE 1338 jobs in solid waste collection to yet another private contractor, he said, “our city is off the wall on this issue.”

Moist noted that the City of Ottawa has a department “that does nothing but investigate how to privatize public services.” He congratulated CUPE Ontario on its action plan to get privatization and P3 issues out to communities across the province with its mobile exhibit.

P3s don’t have to be the way of the future,” said Marie Clarke Walker, executive vice-president of the Canadian Labour Congress and a member of CUPE 4400. “It’s our choice. Tell your elected officials if they don’t listen, you have a choice to get them out.” With a federal election expected anytime, municipal elections next November and a provincial election in two years, CUPE members have lots of opportunities to deliver that message.

At the same time, our most important work is between elections, Moist said, pledging the union’s ongoing support for locals like CUPE 1338, created 35 years ago when the city contracted out solid waste collection. “We organized the private garbage firm then. We will fight to keep solid waste collection unionized now and forever.”