Eleanor Grant’s speech on Hydro One to Kitchener city council

This is the 5-minute presentation I made to Kitchener city council on the subject of the privatization of Hydro One, on 2015 June 29.

Mayor Vrbanovic, Councillors & Staff, fellow citizens:

Hydro power celebration, Berlin, Ontario
Hydro power celebration, Berlin, Ontario
We’ve all seen the inspiring pictures of the night when Berlin, Ontario was electrified in 1910. The banners over King St proclaimed POWER FOR THE PEOPLE.

Adam Beck — a staunch Conservative by the way — fought for hydroelectric power to be a public asset — Why? Because he wanted businesses across Ontario to have equal access to affordable power. Later he worked hard to get homes and farms electrified as well. Since the days of Sir Adam Beck, we’ve all come to see Ontario Hydro and its successors as a sacred trust and a source of pride.

If we were to lose public ownership and control over Hydro One, the potential impact on Ontario’s cities and our local distribution companies could be enormous.

You may have seen our MPP Daiene Vernile’s column in the Kitchener Citizen, which outlines the government’s position for privatization. She states that by retaining a 40% share, Ontario could somehow prevent the outcomes we all fear: skyrocketing rates, shares becoming resold and consolidated in foreign hands, and loss of all regulatory influence. Ms Vernile’s arguments don’t add up, to my mind anyway.

Let’s look at the possible impacts on Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro. What if KWH had to start paying a lot more for transmitted power? If our Hydro bills soared, would we have any recourse? Suppose that this Council, or a future one, wished to bring in a local power generation policy, could we be sued under the WTO? How great would the pressure be to let private interests buy up KWH? How would the new “Hydro Ombudsman” that Ms Vernile speaks of, be able to protect us against such forces?

If we don’t know the answers to these questions and more, then we need time to do the necessary due diligence. We need to ask the Province not to go ahead with this privatization plan at this time.

I have received endorsements from the leadership of several local groups: the Waterloo Regional Labour Council, Grand River Environmental Network, and the Council of Canadians, who will be bringing the issue of Hydro One before Guelph Council soon. I’ve also received support from former Councillor Jean Haalboom, and from Councillor Zyg Janecki who happens to be in Sask tonight.

I urge you to look into the questions I raised above with some urgency. The first IPO of 15% of Hydro One is already being prepared. There’s no time to lose.

Please let the Ontario government know that the people of Kitchener still want “Power for the People” to be a continuing reality, and not a distant memory.

Since the clerk’s office had twice refused to register me as a delegation, I had 5 minutes to speak and no standing on the agenda.

After my presentation, Councillor Yvonne Fernandes tabled a motion, seconded by Councillor Frank Etherington, similar to the motion on Hydro One adopted by the city of Oshawa. But Council voted not to debate or vote on her motion.

I hope this isn’t the end of the story …

Readers, no matter what municipality you live in, please tell your Mayor and Councillors that you’d like them to pass a resolution asking the Ont gov to Keep Hydro Public! More than 40 municipalities already have.

Eleanor Grant
Waterloo

Links:

Hydro power celebration, Berlin, Ontario from the Kitchener Public Library Grace Schmidt Room of Local History.
Copyright Statement: Public domain: Copyright has expired according to Canadian law. No restrictions on use.

Author: Eleanor Grant

Eleanor Grant writes an occasional e-mail newsletter on social justice issues.