Canadian municipalities and provinces are dealing with a significant infrastructure deficit: our transportation and water systems are simply too old and inadequate for our growing population. CUPE has been calling on governments to address this deficit through publicly-owned and operated infrastructure. We know this approach will deliver the highest quality infrastructure at the best price for Canadians.
The election of a majority federal Liberal government raises the serious prospect that future infrastructure development will be built and run as public-private partnerships, and that the quality, cost and accessibility of these projects will all suffer.
At the 2014 convention of the federal Liberal party, a policy resolution was passed entitled “Sustainable and Transformative Canadian Infrastructure Investment.” The resolution called for new infrastructure development by “unlocking untapped sources of non-government investment, including from pension funds and public-private partnerships.” In the leadup to the recent federal election, key Liberal MPs repeatedly stated that the party would be looking to Canadian pension plans to design, build, own and operate future infrastructure projects. The Liberal infrastructure platform referenced “alternative financing” – another pseudonym for privatization. The Liberals are clearly hoping that Canadian pension funds could become privatizers of infrastructure.
Liberal provincial governments in Ontario and Quebec are moving on similar ideas.
CUPE strongly opposes this concept. Privately-owned and operated infrastructure will result in more expensive, lower quality, less accessible services for Canadians. We are strongly opposed to privatization, whether the private owner of the infrastructure is a profit-seeking corporation or a worker’s pension plan. In either case it is wrong; if future infrastructure improvement and development is to truly benefit all Canadians, it must be publicly owned and run.
There are different ways we can resist this push to privatization. CUPE members sit as trustees on pension plans across the country, including some of the largest funds. They can exercise influence on these boards. Pension funds already invest in government bonds and can continue to do so, which can be used to fund quality, public infrastructure.
CUPE members can also fight these changes politically. We can and should challenge any level of government that seeks to sell existing public infrastructure to pension funds, or that tries to use pension funds to develop new private infrastructure.
Learn more about strategies for fighting privatization by looking at the “Our Best Line of Defense” guide available on the CUPE website.
With a massive infrastructure deficit that needs to be balanced, the prospect of huge waves of privatizations with pension funds is very real and CUPE must be on the frontline of this fight.
CUPE members can fight these changes politically. We can and should challenge any level of government that seeks to sell existing public infrastructure to pension funds, or that tries to use pension funds to develop new private infrastructure.