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The Ontario governments plans to privatize power were dealt a serious blow when a court ruled the government lacked the power to sell off Hydro One.
This is a huge victory, says CUPE National President Judy Darcy. And we dont intend to stop here.
Were calling on the government to back off from their plans to hand over our public electricity system to the private sector. Deregulation isnt in the interests of consumers, the economy or the environment and we want it stopped.
The court challenge to the sale of Hydro One had been launched by CUPE and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP).
On April 19, Mr. Justice Gans of the Ontario Superior Court ruled that the legislation creating Hydro One does not give the province the authority to sell its interest in the utility. Hydro One operates the electricity transmission grid across the province.
The ruling throws a spanner in what the Ontario government has called the biggest privatization in the history of the country. But it does not stop the opening of the electricity market, slated for May 1.
Across the province, the Ontario Electricity Coalition (OEC) has been stepping up its efforts to prevent market opening. Public meetings in more than 40 communities have been well attended and more than 20 municipal councils have passed resolutions opposing deregulation.
In no community are Ontarians saying this is a good thing, says OEC chair Paul Kahnert, a member of CUPE 1. The crux of it is that they want our new premier to stop both the privatization of our transmission grid and the electricity market opening for May 1. This is the ethical thing to do, says Kahnert.
The Coalition is urging Ontarians to step up the pressure on newly-installed premier Ernie Eves and their local MPPs. A message to Eves can be sent through CUPEs web site or at keephydropublic.com.
Last Fridays court ruling clearly caught the government and much of the media by surprise. But the case assembled by the lawyers representing CUPE and CEP was compelling.
The legislation setting up Hydro One gives the minister the right to acquire and hold shares in the company but doesnt grant the power to sell them. The unions argued that the province passed special legislation before privatizing Highway 407.
This government has treated the people of this province with contempt, says Darcy. Theyve been riding roughshod over the legislature and the rights or workers for so long, they thought they could get away with anything. Well we proved them wrong.
The decision also sent shockwaves through Bay Street where bankers and brokers expected to pocket more than $150 million in commission from the sale of the shares in Hydro One. Most expressed the view that the ruling was a temporary nuisance but some decried the damage to Ontarios reputation among foreign investors, claiming the province was made to look like a banana republic with a politicized judiciary.
Terrence Corcoran, writing in the National Post, decried the disaster, orchestrated and financed by Judy Darcys national anti-privatization crusade. He called on Eves to move full speed ahead to recall the legislature and ram through the necessary laws.
Needless to say, CUPE disagrees.
Rather than appeal the decision or try to bulldoze the sale through the legislature, were calling on the new premier to just back away from the plan, says Darcy. It was a bad idea. The people of Ontario oppose it. He should move now to ensure that power remains in the hands of the people.
Tell Eves to back off hydro sale
To lend your voice to the call for public power, visit cupe.ca or call Premier Eves at 416-325-1941.
For more information on the legal action, including the text of the judges ruling, visit cupe.ca.