Brown rallies against privatization
ANDREW PHILIPS/SPECIAL TO THE PACKET & TIMES Simcoe North MPP and Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown speaks Friday outside the Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene during an event organized by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.
PENETANGUISHENE – These troops certainly didn’t need much rallying from Opposition leader Patrick Brown.
The Simcoe North MPP and Ontario Progressive Conservative leader arrived Friday afternoon at an Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) event outside the Central North Correctional Centre to discuss the dangers of privatizing the province’s public entities and services.
“Some people would be saying, ‘What is the leader of the Progressive Conservatives doing at an OPSEU rally?’” Brown asked rhetorically.
“But there’s no monopoly on a good idea. We need to learn from history, learn from past mistakes. I don’t care if it’s a Liberal idea, an NDP idea or a Progressive Conservative idea.”
Under sunny skies and with a cool breeze wafting off nearby Georgian Bay, Brown and other union representatives discussed how to best preserve provincial institutions and jobs.
OPSEU’s first vice-president/treasurer, Eduardo (Eddy) Almeid, warned about the dangers of privatization, including of the province’s water.
OPSEU had a large tent set up near the road beside the super-jail to drum up support for its We Own It campaign, which aims at ending what it views as privatization of provincial institutions, including the LCBO through the ongoing sale of beer, cider and wine in grocery stores.
“We’re protecting the public-service jobs,” Central North correctional officer Andrew Parker said, noting the province currently nets $2.4 billion through the liquor agency, money that would be lost if it’s eventually privatized.
“The Liberals seem to have that plan of shifting towards privatization.”
Later, Parker addressed Brown directly: “Mr. Brown, if you happen to be our next premier, it’s time to be proactive rather than reactive.”
That sentiment was echoed by fellow correctional officer and union representative Chris Jackel: “We need a commitment from the current government and future governments that they will resist privatization.”
Almeid tried to have Brown sign the “public-service pledge” for the We Own It campaign, something Brown didn’t do then and there, but he said he would study and discuss further with OPSEU president Warren “Smokey” Thomas.
“It’s been a real pleasure to work with Smokey and her about some of the concerns in the province,” Brown said, noting one jail he toured in Thunder Bay was in such disrepair, an inmate was able to take a cell door off and hold a guard hostage. “We hear your concerns.”
Brown also took aim at delays in the mental-health system caused by staffing shortages.
As an example, he said, people encouraged to seek help through widespread media campaigns are told they’ll have to wait weeks or even months for treatment.
“If someone has the courage to come forward, we need to make sure we have the proper resources in the province (to help them),” he said.
Brown credited former premier Bill Davis as being instrumental in creating many of the institutions and infrastructure Ontario residents now rely on and are proud of having.
He said the current government is on a dangerous path and that by privatizing Hydro One, the utility will lose its transparency since Ontario residents won’t be able to view the salaries of its top employees through the province’s annual public-disclosure process.
“I’m proud to oppose the fire sale of Hydro One,” Brown said, adding there’s something wrong when the CEO of Hydro One is paid $4.7 million a year while his Quebec counterpart earns $400,000.
“They’re selling our treasured assets to prop up (the province’s) books.”