Selling Toronto Hydro

The Toronto municipal election is in the fall (2014). One of the mayoral candidates, Karen Stinz, wants to sell Toronto Hydro. She’ll likely make the same claim that Rocco Rossi (a previous candidate) did in the last municipal election. That being, “It doesn’t matter who owns Hydro, it’s heavily regulated”. This can be refuted. Private companies have enormous political power to get regulations changed in their favour. According to TURN (The Utility Reform Network) in the U.S., private companies spend billions of dollars,  hiring armies of lobbyists to undermine regulations and consumer protection laws so they can increase their profits.

This is the fourth attempt by politicians to sell Toronto Hydro since Mel Lastman was Mayor and he tried to sell it too. We constantly see the packaging and repackaging of privatization of Toronto Hydro, trying to sell it to the voters. Even the previous mayor, David Miller, set up a ‘Blue Ribbon Panel’ that recommended selling Toronto Hydro. The current mayor, Ford, is on the record as wanting to sell 10% of it and Socknaki, another current mayoral candidate, thought it was a good idea in the past as well. John Tory, yet another candidate, would likely sell although he hasn’t stated his position yet. Only Olivia Chow, the frontrunner, said it was not in the public interest to sell Toronto Hydro. Toronto Hydro has and will continue to put hundreds of millions of dollars into city coffers for generations to come. Politicians did not sell Toronto Hydro during the depths of the Great Depression nor during the height of the First or Second World Wars. City ownership of Toronto Hydro is a critical lever for the economy and for the environment.

It’s been said repeatedly that selling Toronto Hydro to pay for other things is like burning your furniture to heat your home, a really stupid idea. Given the record of efforts to privatize hydro, it’s a wonder that any politician would promote it. Rocco Rossi wanted to sell Toronto Hydro during the last election and got 3% of the vote.

– Paul Kahnert