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Ottawa – Premier Ernie Eves’ move to sell shares of Hydro One to private investors has led to strong reaction from the unions that put the brakes on government plans to privatize the utility earlier this year.

Urging the Board of Directors of Hydro One “not to do the bidding of the premier”, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) sent a letter last week to the newly installed board calling on them to protect the broader public interest as they consider the future of Hydro One.

The two unions have received legal advice that the Board of the publicly-owned electrical utility has a duty to play an active role in safeguarding the public interest in the future of Hydro One. In other words, Hydro One’s new Board does not have to wait passively for the provincial government to decide the utility’s fate, but can act on its own authority to preserve public ownership of the company, according to the CEP and CUPE.

The unions said in their letter that this authority can be found both in the basic principles of corporate law and in the approach adopted by the courts when dealing with the responsibility of the boards of corporations responsible for providing a monopoly service.

“It doesn’t matter what’s being said about Hydro One in the legislature, in committee rooms or in the courts,” says CEP Ontario Vice-President Cecil Makowski. “What matters is what’s being said in the living rooms, dining rooms and kitchens across this province. And that’s where the overwhelming majority of Ontarians are saying ‘hands off Hydro One. Don’t sell 100% of it, 49% of it or any of it – Hydro One belongs to the public.’”

Makowski said that it was only because the two unions went to court last April that the government’s plan to sell Hydro One to private investors was stopped. “The Board of Hydro One has the authority to protect the interests of Ontarians and they should exercise that authority without delay.”

“The government’s attempt at privatizing and deregulating has already proved a disaster,” said Judy Darcy, CUPE National President. “We simply cannot afford to sell our energy sector to a handful of power giants whose goal is profit rather than public service, especially in the wake of the Enron and WorldCom scandals. We need to keep this public utility in public hands.”

CUPE and CEP will continue to fight for public ownership of the transmission and distribution lines. Together the unions represent nearly 250,000 Ontario residents.


For further information:
Robert Fox, CUPE (613) 237-1590
Michelle Walsh, CEP (613) 230-5200