In the midst of Toronto's most up market neighbourhood, stands Casa Loma -- a monument to one of the last robber barons of the 19th century. Linda McQuaig writes:
In the early 1900s, Toronto entrepreneur Henry Pellatt used his enormous wealth to build the most magnificent private residence ever seen in Canada -— a stunning palace that took 300 workers three years to construct and featured an oven large enough to cook an ox.The construction of Casa Loma put to rest any doubts about whether there was money to be made harnessing the power of Niagara Falls, which was how Pellatt had made his fortune.
But, in 1907, after a series of referendums, Ontarians decided to make electricity generation the business of a public corporation:
The results of those referendums overwhelmingly confirmed that Ontarians favoured wresting control of the budding power industry from the clutches of a handful of entrepreneurs, including Pellatt, whose effective monopoly enabled them to jack up prices and restrict scarce electricity to communities where it could be provided most profitably.The vote followed a long campaign by a popular alliance of farmers, workers, businessmen and civic leaders, who fought to ensure the vast energy of Niagara Falls would be developed, not for the benefit of Pellatt, but in the public interest, as Howard Hampton and Bill Reno document in their 2003 book Public Power.
However, the government of Kathleen Wynne has decided to sell Ontario Hydro back into private hands:
Wynne is no privatization ideologue, but she wants to use about $4 billion of the proceeds from the privatization to build public transit and infrastructure.These things need to be built, but is the solution to sell off vital public assets in order to build new vital public assets?Wynne insists that, even though the government will own only 40 per cent of Hydro One, it will be the largest single shareholder with an effective veto over key decisions.But can we count on it — or future governments — to actually use that veto, given their well-known timidity to interfere with private enterprise?
The neo-liberal agenda is alive and well. Don't let anybody tell you differently.