by Lynne Fernandez
Here’s an UNEDITED version of my letter appearing in today’s Winnipeg Free Press. I’m responding to Mr. Tishinski’s letter to the editor of September 27th.
Mr. Tishinski rightly notes that a referendum would have to be held successfully before Manitoba Hydro could be privatized. He also rightly notes that the need to put the question to a referendum exists because the Manitoba Hydro Act was changed in 2001 to protect it from privatization.
But Mr. Tishinski fails to explain that the Act was changed in response to the privatization of MTS, seen by many Manitobans as a treacherous sell off of a successful publically-owned corporation without consulting the shareholders: Manitoba tax payers. If the legislation can be changed once to necessitate a referendum, it can be changed again to remove that proviso.
Mr. Tishinski also ignores the various forms that privatization can take. It does not have to be outright, as with MTS. One need only study the case of BC Hydro which has been dramatically altered while the powers that be claim that it is not being privatized.
According to John Calvert, it is not necessary to sell a Crown utility’s assets to relinquish control to the private sector. He explains how BC Hydro’s function was changed from a producer of electricity to a distributor of energy owned by private producers. This split between public distributor and private producer fundamentally and negatively changed BC’s electricity system, and did so without meaningful consultation with BC tax payers.
Those who champion privatization have learnt their lesson: in order to gain access to public assets, stealth and double speak are the weapons of choice.