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Toronto – Despite what Premier Mike Harris wants to believe, the majority of Ontarians think public services should be delivered by public employees, says Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario President Sid Ryan.

Appearing on CFRB in the spring, Harris responded to a phone-in question about contracting out public services, including water and sewage treatment, by asking: Do you want an employee that we are in control of, that you cant fire, cant lose their job, that you have to bonus? Or would you rather have someone accountable and they lose the whole contract if they make a mistake?

We have the answer for the Premier, Ryan said. A CUPE poll conducted in March showed:

  • 67% of Ontarians believe public employees are more accountable to the public than private contractors
  • 62% agreed that public employees provide service that is as good or better than private contractors
  • 88% agreed that spending on public services is really an investment in the quality of life in our community

We have to believe that Premier Harris has seen similar polling data, Ryan said. Otherwise, why would he have testified at the Walkerton inquiry that a Toronto Star report of what he said on the radio was wrong? On May 1, The Star reported that Harris also told the radio audience that the public would be better off if the private sector ran water and sewage treatment plants, suggesting that public servants cant be trusted in light of the water tragedy in Walkerton.

The Premier had better start getting the message, Ryan said. Our poll shows that almost two-thirds of Ontarians agree it is morally wrong in principle to make a profit providing essential public services. Sixty-nine per cent said it is wrong to make a profit on operating water and sewage treatment plants.

The CUPE poll was conducted last March by Vector Research & Development Inc. It surveyed 1,000 people across Ontario, less than one-quarter of whom were union members.


For further information:
Sid Ryan, President, CUPE Ontario
Pat Daley, CUPE Communications