Sunday, August 07, 2016

Don't Let Anybody Tell You Differently

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.



Anonymous said...

Wynne is certainly to blame for putting the last nail in the coffin of Ontario Hydro, but generations of politicians put such a ridiculous volume of debt on the books of the utility that it was no longer able to function as a 'reasonable' option for electricity for consumers.

Ontario Hydro - public or private - is a great example of economic slavery. Electricity - by virtue of its abundance from the earth, sun, moon and oceans - should be free and yet we've convinced ourselves that we should be OK with paying hundreds of dollars per month for debt retirement (accumulated because of our dangerous foray into expensive and environmentally destructive nuclear options) and bloated bureaucracies.

In a weird way, Wynne may turn this whole thing to her advantage because those debts are no longer part of the 'Government of Ontario' package, reducing the risk to the province of default.

Owen Gray said...

We'll see what happens, Anon. McQuaig writes that the new CEO of Ontario Hydro makes three times what his predecessor made. At those rates, it'll be easy to stay in debt. And, like the big banks, Hydro could well demand that the public bail it out.

Steve said...

Wynee is no Joan of Arc but Mike Harris pushed humpty hydro off the wall and it can never put put back together. On the otherhand it may be a pig in a poke. Off the grid could be the choice of a new generation.

Owen Gray said...

Off the grid may become the equivalent of the '60's back to the land movement, Steve.

Steve said...

Owen, no, we have the tech not just the intent now!@

Owen Gray said...

You're right, Steve. It should be easier to go off the grid than it was for city kids to go back to the land.

Steve said...

Owen Gray said...

Precisely, Steve.