Report: Mississauga Town Hall Says “Keep Public Services Public!” —

May 22. Concerned Mississauga residents attended a town hall on Public Services and Privatization. Speakers gave examples of the deteriorating and even dangerous conditions privatization has caused in the hospitals, health care clinics and provincial jails, for snow removal on roads and highways, and for water purification.

As the government cuts services and public sector jobs, it pays private companies to do jobs that end in failure, one speaker at the Mississauga event said. The super jail built in south Etobicoke by private investors, using a U.S. design and hardware, ended up with mould growing between the walls in just over a year and a lock-up system that could be sprung simply by pouring any liquid on the electronic locks. The government so far has not required the contractors or investors to pay for the repairs to the jail. According to one speaker, the private snow removal company the province hired failed to keep the roads clear while running up huge maintenance bills with local garages and service stations. The government not only bailed them out, paying all the outstanding bills, but paid the contract in full.

A woman attending the meeting said she works for Service Ontario which has 12 offices in Mississauga and Brampton but 10 of them are privatized. When the government advertises its Service Centres, it never includes the two remaining government offices. When asked why, the workers were told it is to help out the private centres to increase their volume. The workers know they are being set up to lose their jobs when the government, one day, tells them their volume is so much lower than the private ones.

Another speaker from an anti-poverty group questioned the province’s decision to hire private contractors to build and manage an LRT line from the lakeshore in Mississauga to Brampton for an estimated $1.4 billion when, according to the United Way, over 230,000 people in the area are struggling with poverty and the lack of affordable housing. People don’t live in streetcars, he said. That $1.4 billion could go a long way in providing housing. This led to a lively exchange on who decides and that the people are blocked from the decision-making that affects their lives.

Two of the speakers said the government is gutting public services, including its IT experts, planners and developers and then claiming it does not have the capacity and expertise to take on major infrastructure projects, such as these billion-dollar transit projects, so it has no choice but to go to the private sector. Speakers and members of the audience disputed that private corporations with no experience in providing IT or transit services to the public can do a better job than their own local workers who have years of experience on the front lines.

Residents attending the town hall expressed their frustration in not knowing what to do to build a strong enough voice in the community to stop the steamrolling of their public services. More discussions need to take place in the community so the people are informed and can take a stand in defence of the public services that they need and demand, the participants concluded.

(Ontario Political Forum)