Saturday, December 17, 2016

Ontario government officials sued over privatization of Hydro ONe.

The Ontario branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has filed a lawsuit against the Liberal Premier of the Province Kathleen Wynne, Finance Minister Charles Sousa and former Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli on the grounds of malfeasance.

The suit is connected to the privatization of the provincially owned electric company Hydro One. The Ontario president of CUPE, Fred Hahn said the suit is aimed at preventing any further sale of shares in Hydro One while the province remains the major shareholder. The province earlier sold about 30 percent of the shares and is planning to sell another 30 percent. The aim is to raise money to help pay down the provincial debt and to fund infrastructure projects. CUPE had notified the Ministry of the Attorney General of its intent to launch the suit.
The CUPE suit claims that the Liberals had inappropriately held fundraisers with cabinet ministers and bankers who were to profit from the privatization process. One fundraiser even cost $7, 500 a ticket and allowed the bankers to be with Sousa and Chiarelli. Wynne claims that the provincial integrity commissioner had looked into the events and found no wrongdoing. No doubt if money had been exchanged in return for promises related to privatization the situation would have been different. However, the fundraiser sounds like the typical type of event where high government officials hob nob with important business figures and raise funds for the party in power. Nothing illegal, just business as usual with the party in power reaping rewards for being business friendly. The government maintains that it was "not aware of any action from CUPE". The union said it could not give specifics about the lawsuit until it was officially filed in November.
CUPE claims it is using the suit to argue that shares of Hydro One should remain in public hands and says that most Ontarians oppose the sale. President Hahn said: "It seems remarkable to me that a provincial government would act in a way that is so broadly unpopular." The Liberals are planning to sell up to 60 percent of the utility. The earlier sale of 30 percent of the shared brought in revenue of $3.2 billion. Hahn believes that the sale is not in the best interests of the province. Hahn said: "This is one piece of a much larger chorus of opposition that this government needs to pay attention to. We have firm belief that we can stop them."
There was criticism of the Ontario government's privatization plans from the beginning. Hydro One produces around $1 billion annually for provincial coffers. The federal Liberals also are contemplating raising money perhaps by privatizing airports. Given that these moves also produce profits for bankers and buyers of the assets, the Liberals also can expect to raise money through donations from grateful businesses.

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