PEOPLE POWER COULD DO IT. It could get Kathleen Wynne to pull the plug on her plan to privatize 60% of Hyrdo One. It has already forced the Ontario premier to admit she failed to see or appreciate the impact the plan was having on the everyday lives of all Ontario.
Wynne told a Liberal party meeting in November 2016: "I take responsibility as leader for not paying close enough attention to some of the daily stresses in Ontarians' lives. Electricity prices are the prime example."
The average hydro bill in Ontario jumped by 16% in 2015. New approved billing procedures drove bills even higher. In one instance a user was charged $12,474 for using just $267.80 of electricity. More that 60,000 citizens were cut off power due to non-payment of bills.
The direct impact this had on peoples’ lives was deep and dramatic. The Liberals tried rate cuts and tax rebates. But every “fix” they came up with did little to reduce public resistance to the plan.
Anger, anxiety, anquish, resistance
Wynne promoted the selloff as a way to help the people of Ontario. That’s not how it turned out. Many thousands have suffered in ways large and small: some, like Marsha Depoiter, of Bancroft Ontario, even lost their homes because paying their electric bill left them without enough to pay the mortgage.
Most tragic of all, the high cost of electricity took Kenny Taylor’s life. He burned to death when a gas generator he was refilling exploded. He had been using the generator to provide electricity to his home. He resorted to the generator because he could no longer afford to buy electricity from Hydro One.
Public opposition quick and lasting
Public opposition to the Liberal selloff was quick to start and has proven durable determined and imaginative. It ranges from a highly organized and professional province-wide campaign to highly personal individual efforts.
The main push comes from the Hydro One: Not for Sale campaign maintained by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. Check the campaign’s Facebook page and you will see hundreds of postings of supporters, starting from 2015.
The page itself is part of an impressive juggernaut of web pages, Facebook pages with tens of thousands of members and at least five different Twitter feeds marshaling the support of tens of thousands of citizens, all committed to forcing Wynne to abandon plans to privatize any more of Hydro One.
This opposition includes things like:
- the London chapter of the Hydro One: Not of Sale campaign picketing the minister of energy’s office once a week for 82 consecutive weeks
- illuminated mobile billboards
- an app for the Citizens’ Coalition Against Privatization
- pop up information demos at the airport, on street corners, public meetings, subway stations
- a YouTube video by hip hop composer J Reno of his original song Hydro Bills that got 193,000 Facebook hits
- an open letter of protest to the premier from Libby Keenan, a horse trainer in Amherstburg, that went viral and got her a face-to-face meeting with Wynne
All of it nicely summed up by amateur musician Dave Bush with 1.4 million views of his composition The Hydro song, with the message:
“Let’s get back to treating people right.”
Given the strength, imagination and durability of the public opposition to her Hydro One selloff plan the premier would do well to unplug the plan—before the public decides to unplug her.