stop schedule 28: the mass privatization of ontario's public services

As usual, the mainstream media foams at the mouth about a possible snap election in Ontario, but barely reports on what's in the budget itself.

If it weren't for the Council of Canadians and the Ontario Health Coalition, I wouldn't have known that Dalton McGuinty's budget contains a stealth attempt to privatization Ontario's public services with virtually no oversight. Scroll down for information on how to take action.

From The Council of Canadians:
The Ontario government is trying to quietly push through an Act [on Tuesday, June 12] that will allow the privatization of public services without any public consultation or legislative debate. Schedule 28 is a small section of Ontario’s omnibus budget bill. It calls for a new privatization minister who will have the authority to override all other ministers to choose what services – health care, water, hydro, education, and others – will be contracted out, sold or folded into public-private partnerships. There will be no public or legislative debate when these services are privatized. Even the ministers in charge of these portfolios will not have a say.

The McGuinty government is claiming that Schedule 28 will only impact Service Ontario, and that an amendment to this effect has been made. However calls to the opposition parties and those working on Schedule 28 reveal that no one has actually seen this elusive amendment. Without clear details no one can be certain that Ontarians’ public services, natural resources, environment, and privacy will be properly protected. The only solution is to have Schedule 28 withdrawn entirely.
And an updated media release from both the Council of Canadians and the Ontario Health Coalition:
The Council of Canadians and Ontario Health Coalition are outraged that despite promises made by Ontario's government, proposed amendments are too weak to stop the mass privatization of public services in Budget Bill 55, Schedule 28.

Proposed amendments do not remove wording from Schedule 28, subsection 10 that would allow for the privatization of broader public services. "Despite promises from Finance Minister Dwight Duncan the McGuinty government continues to grant itself extraordinary powers to privatize public services ranging from health care, education, water services, and municipal and provincial services, "says Natalie Mehra of the Ontario Health Coalition. "To put it into context, the proposed amendments are so weak that they still facilitate potentially the largest privatization in Ontario's history. Amendments are not enough. Schedule 28 should be struck down in its entirety."

The amendments to Bill 55 were due Tuesday, June 12 at 6 p.m. Until then, the public was not able to see those amendments. "Without having time for proper legal analysis, Ontarians and their MPPs will simply not have the opportunity to understand the consequences of an Act that is being pushed through the legislature. This is a violation of democracy. Ontarians have a right to have a say on government plans to privatize public services," says Maude Barlow, Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. "The McGuinty government misrepresented their intentions for this Schedule to Ontarians."

With amendments, Schedule 28 will still allow the sale of broader public services to for-profit companies. "Public services should never be delivered with profit as a primary motive," says Barlow. "Ontarians deserve the best water, schools and hospitals and they shouldn't have to pay more to get less."

The Council of Canadians and the Ontario Health Coalition are calling on the NDP and the PC opposition parties to put the interests of Ontarians first and strike down Schedule 28.
From the backgrounder to this media release:
Claims by the Finance Minister and some media that Schedule 28 is limited to the privatization of Service Ontario (and that is bad enough) are not true. In fact, Section 10 of the legislation specifically states that for- and non-profit companies could be contracted to privatize services in:
- Municipalities & local boards under the Municipal Act
- Any other authority, board, commission, corporation, office or organization under the authority of a municipality
- Universities, colleges, or other postsecondary institutions
- School boards
- Hospitals
Thus, Schedule 28 clearly applies to hospitals, school boards, municipalities, social services, municipal water systems, and all government services; and it overrides all government ministries as well as existing legislation and regulations.

. . . . If Ontario government services were to be privatized under this Schedule, any attempt to restore these services to the public sector could be subject to a trade challenge under the WTO GATS and the proposed Canadian-European trade agreement, CETA. Schedule 28 has been written without any recognition of this danger.
This is very scary and very disturbing. Privatization inevitably leads to more expensive, multi-tiered service delivery, where the wealthy can opt for higher quality and the rest of us are left with the dregs. Good jobs will vanish and the pay scale of all workers will continue to slide even further. Despite promises, taxes generally do not go down. The only thing that changes is where those taxes go: to finance profits for a few. And the only people who benefit from privatization are corporate shareholders.

If you live in Ontario, I urge you to contact the MPPs on the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs and tell them to withdraw Schedule 28 from the budget bill.

Bob Delaney (Mississauga--Streetsville)

Teresa Piruzza (Windsor West)

Victor Fedeli (Nipissing)

Cindy Forster (Welland)

Monte McNaughton (Lambton--Kent--Middlesex)

Yasir Naqvi (Ottawa Centre)

Michael Prue (Beaches--East York)

Peter Shurman (Thornhill)

Soo Wong (Scarborough--Agincourt)

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