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CUPE has joined with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP) in a court action to stop the sale of Hydro One, which operates Ontario’s electricity transmission grid.

The unions launched their legal challenge earlier this week, arguing the province does not have the legal authority to sell its stake in Hydro One. Their case could be heard as soon as April 12.

We know the government doesn’t have a mandate to privatize Hydro One and we don’t believe they have the authority,” says CUPE National President Judy Darcy.

The legislation that created Hydro One gives the government the power to “acquire and hold” the utility but there’s no mention of the power to sell it shares to private investors.

This is an essential service, as important as water and public health care, and cannot be left to private interests who will put profits first,” says Darcy. “We’re deeply concerned about the impact of privatizing Hydro One on our families, our environment and our economy. It’s a reckless plan and it must be stopped.”

In a Queen’s Park news conference on April 9, the unions set out their legal case, criticizing the government for proceeding without legislation or public hearings. As well, they have written the Ontario Securities Commission asking that they refuse approval of the sale in the public interest.

The government is misleading investors in the same way it has mislead Ontario residents,” says Judy Darcy. “Despite the government’s promises, an essential utility that has been in public hands for the past century could end up under foreign control.”

Brian Payne, the president of CEP, called on incoming premier Ernie Eves to take action to stop the deal.

We can’t wait until April 15 for Ernie Eves to take over as premier,” says Payne. “He should announce that the government will stop this deal today.”

In their legal case, the unions note that in June of 1998, Energy Minister Jim Wilson stated the Tory government never intended to privatize Ontario Hydro.

But since December 2001, the government has been moving swiftly ahead with privatization without any debate in the legislature or public hearings

If they needed special legislation to privatize Highway 407, what would make them think they don’t need the approval of the legislature to privatize Hydro One?” asks Darcy. “What they’re doing is a bad idea and it’s unlawful – and we intend to stop them.”