Thanks to an energetic campaign by CUPE Local 38, Calgary City Council voted overwhelmingly to stop the privatization of Enmax, the city’s electricity utility.
“Calgarians want Enmax to be part of their city,” said council member Bob Hawkesworth after the vote. Council voted 13-2 on May 10 to scrap the sale.
“This is a huge victory for public accountability over business ideology,” says CUPE Local 38 president Peter Marsden, representing Calgary municipal workers.
“Keep the power in Calgary” was the refrain seen and heard around the city over the last two months. CUPE’s campaign focused on control over rates, keeping good jobs in Calgary and the huge financial dividend from Enmax that helps to keep property taxes low. Bright bus shelter posters and radio ads urged people to call members of City Council to stop the sale. And it worked.
“We heard from the mayor and city council that they were inundated with calls to their offices prior to the vote. Our campaign was aimed at urging people to make their voices heard because ultimately this was their decision,” says Marsden.
CUPE Local 38’s campaign began almost one year ago, when privatization was proposed by Enmax executives. The former mayor and council voted to sell Enmax last August, prior to the municipal elections. CUPE Local 38 launched into action to oppose the sell off, joining forces with a community coalition.
Thanks to their work, the proposed sale of Enmax became the number one issue in the municipal election last October. As a result, Mayor Dave Bronconnier was elected in October with the promise to halt the sale. Since then, the city undertook a public consultation before making a final decision.
The sale of Enmax to the private sector would have put 400 jobs at risk. CUPE Local 38 argued those jobs represented $80 million of consumer spending in Calgary every year. In addition, the sale would jeopardize rates and reliable service.
“In the end, Calgarians agreed,” says Marsden. “The best decision is the keep the power in Calgary.”