How not to fund infrastructure

Recycling is supposed to be a good thing, so when the federal Liberals quietly announced that “asset recycling” would be part of their strategy for meeting their much-ballyhooed infrastructure promises, not many eyebrows were raised. They should have been. Asset recycling is an obscure code word for selling our public goods for private profit. It’s privatization by another name.

Don’t have the taxes to pay for new buses? It’s okay, you can sell your electricity utility to pay for them instead. In fact, this is precisely what the Ontario Liberal government is doing. Already 30% of the profitable Hydro One have been sold and another 30% will be sold before 2018. A public Hydro One could more directly fight climate change, lower energy costs for the poor or work with First Nations on whose lands generation often happens. A private Hydro becomes an instrument for profit first with other goals secondary.

What the Liberals have started in Ontario will soon be rolled out across Canada. Here are the problems with these schemes. (more…)

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Pension tensions and power privatization

Two guests today: Kevin Skerrett on the changing way pensions function today and Sheila Block the impending privatization of Hydro One in Ontario. Sadly, the two are linked: large pension funds are increasingly active in privatizations. My first guest, Kevin Skerrett, is a pension researcher at the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Don’t let the word pensions scare you off, this is a conversation that gets to the heart of how workers relate to the market and to each other in a changing neoliberal economy. See this article by Kevin and the linked videos of a speaker series for more.

From pensions, the episode moves to privatization with my second guest, Sheila Block. Sheila is the Senior Economist at the Ontario office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. We spoke about the impending privatization of Hydro One in Ontario, a cynical and financially senseless sell-off of an important public asset. Sheila’s recent article on the topic is here.

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