TORONTO – Government lawyers appealing a court ruling that scuttled the privatization of Hydro One tipped their hand today, indicating the government wants to privatize the utility that generates most of Ontario’s electricity. But the two unions that stopped the sell off of the power grid pledged to fight to preserve public power generation.
In their submission before a panel of three judges at the Ontario Court of Appeal, lawyers representing the Ministry of Energy argued that even though the government was pushing through legislation that would allow it to privatize Hydro One, the April 19 court ruling that stopped the sale of the transmission grid must be overturned or it would restrict the government’s ability to sell off its generating capacity, Ontario Power Generation (OPG).
In his original court ruling, Mr. Justice Arthur Gans agreed with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union and the Canadian Union of Public Employees that the government did not have the authority to privatize Hydro One.
“Privatizing OPG means that Niagara Falls could be sold off to private investors,” said Cecil Makowski, CEP Ontario Region Vice-President. “This government is out to privatize all major public utilities, claiming these sales will be used to pay down the government debt. In fact they are bankrupting the people of this province.”
“As usual, this government is scheming behind closed doors – we never get the full story,” said CUPE National President Judy Darcy. “Now we learn they plan to privatize OPG. That would be a disaster for ratepayers, for Ontario’s economy and for the environment. They don’t have a mandate to sell of our power utilities and we won’t let them get away with it.”
Union lawyers argued before the Appeal Court that with the withdrawal of the initial public offering for Hydro One and because Bill 58, which gives the government the power to sell off the transmission grid, has already received second reading, the appeal was moot at this point. But in their closing statement to the court the lawyers representing the province made clear that if the appeal is not overturned the government’s plan to privatize OPG would be jeopardized.
OPG, previously part of Ontario Hydro, generates and sells electricity to customers in Ontario and contributes about $1.2 billion annually in taxes, dividends and other payments to the province of Ontario.
The unions called on the government to back off from the sale of any part of Ontario Hydro and instead invest in strengthening public power in the province.
For further information: Diane Chester (416)537-6100 ext. 69
CUPE & CEP websites: cupe.ca and cep.ca