Bill C-10 Fact Sheet

The John Howard Society of Manitoba is organizing a rally to stop Bill C-10 (November 8, 12pm, at the Leg). For more information about this bill, see their fact sheet, below.

By the John Howard Society of Manitoba

Bill C-10, an omnibus bill, contains nine separate pieces of previously failed legislation. In addition to creating a number of new mandatory minimum sentences for a wide variety of offences, it increases the use of denunciation and longer sentences for young offenders, makes it easier for the Minister of Public Safety to deny Canadians incarcerated in other countries transfers back to Canada to complete their sentences here, and would delay or deny pardons outright for hundreds of thousands of Canadians with a criminal record.

As well, the Bill calls for a minimum sentence of nine months in jail for anyone found growing six or more pot plants, and would impose the same sentence for someone caught giving away as little as a single joint (which would count as trafficking, even if no money was involved).

The federal government and its supporters have not introduced any evidence to support its claims that Bill C-10 will reduce crime – and are simply ignoring 30 years of evidence from the United States showing that locking up more people, for longer, does not reduce crime.

Although it was introduced by the Federal Government, if passed, Bill C-10 would force the provincial governments to lock up more inmates, increasing overcrowding in provincial jails and further clogging up the courts. John Howard Society of Manitoba has calculated that three-fourths of the increased costs resulting from this Bill will have to be borne by the provinces, and only one-fourth by the federal government – and of course 100 percent of the cost will ultimately be borne by tax-payers.

The government has not released any credible figures in terms of the costs; however based on previous legislation, the John Howard Society of Manitoba calculates the costs to be about $2 billion a year in total (including both federal and provincial costs), or $1400 per tax-payer.

The Provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and Ontario have all spoken out against the Bill, as has the official opposition in British Columbia. Even New Brunswick, which supports the Bill, has said it can’t afford to pay the costs.

In brief, Bill C-10:

  • Will not reduce crime, while diverting billions of dollars from healthcare, education, social services as well as strategies already proven to be effective at reducing crime.
  • Will make it harder or even impossible for someone with a criminal record to get a pardon and move forward with their life in a positive, crime-free way.
  • Will dramatically increase violence in prisons and jails, increasing risks for both inmates and staff. It will also make it harder, if not impossible, to offer programs in jails and prisons to help inmates rehabilitate themselves.

Other Voices

“I went from robbing 7-11 stores, robbing drug dealers, escaping from jail, to becoming a good father, a good member of society, a good taxpayer, a role model to other individuals that are facing the same challenge that I am,” said Chris Courchene, a 29-year-old Aboriginal man from Winnipeg, Canada’s violent crime capital according to Statistics Canada. “I feel that the proposed legislation paints everyone with the same brush. I think that the pardons should be for people who have clearly demonstrated without a doubt that they have reformed.” (At a press conference in Ottawa, ON October)

Wilma Derksen told the committee that finally hearing the truth about what happened to her daughter was a relief but the sentencing did not satisfy her need for justice. “The trial brought out the truth and it was the truth that healed us and set us free, not the sentencing. I still find no satisfaction in thinking that the man will be sitting in prison for the next 25 years. There is nothing life-giving about that. It’s just sad. And it’s going to cost us $2.5 million, probably.” (November 3, 2011, speaking to a House of Commons Standing Committee).

“If there is one common feature of these bills, it’s the ignoring, marginalizing and mischaracterizing of the evidence. The Government holds out the crime bill as a purported means of crime reduction, yet studies show that the resulting prison overcrowding and use of mandatory-minimum sentences will ultimately result in more crime.” (Irwin Cotler, Member of Parliament for Mount Royal and the Liberal critic for justice and human rights – Montreal Gazette, November 4, 2011)

About 13 per cent of the male inmate population is ‘double-bunked’ – housed in cells built for one person – and, under Bill C-10, that will increase to 30 per cent. “Prison overcrowding undermines nearly everything that can be positive or useful about a correctional environment,” Pierre Mallette, the head of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, said. “It is linked to increased levels of institutional violence, is a contributing factor to the spread of infectious disease and reduces already limited access to correctional programming and delays the safe and timely reintegration of offenders into the community.” (Montreal Gazette, November 4, 2011)

“If the prime minister’s tough-on-crime rules end up creating more ex-cons, and more hardened ex-cons, increasing the portion of our population with mental illnesses, poorer health, chronic unemployment, homelessness and family break ups, those are costs that are going to hit the provinces harder in their health care budgets and social support program budgets – and for years longer than the actual incarcerations.” (Kevin Libin, National Post, November 4, 2011)

Felix Collins, Newfoundland’s province’s justice minister, said he has never seen a study that favours more prison time as a way to cut rates of re-offence and improve public safety. “Incarcerating more people is not the answer,” Mr. Collins said (Globe and Mail, November 3, 2011).

The John Howard Society works with victims, offenders and communities to respond to the causes and consequences of crime.

New Date for Brunch with Justice Sinclair!

The Fundraising Brunch with Justice Sinclair has been rescheduled. The new date is November 27th. See below for ticket information.
We hope to see you there!

Justice Murray Sinclair, the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, has graciously agreed to be a guest speaker at a CCPA-MB fundraising brunch in the Star Grill restaurant in the Assiniboine Park Conservatory. The theme of his presentation will be “Understanding the Legacy”. Seating is limited, so please order your tickets soon.

Sunday November 27, 2011, 
10 a.m.

Star Grill Restaurant
Assiniboine Park Conservatory

Tickets: $75.00 ($50.00 tax receipt)

To order tickets:

  • PHONE the CCPA-MB office at 927-3200
  • EMAIL sinclair-brunch@policyalternatives.ca
  • Pop into the office (309 – 323 Portage Avenue) between 9 and 12, 1 to 4, Monday to Friday

You can pay by:

  • Credit card (if you email please just ask for us to call you for the number)
  • Cash
  • Cheque made out to CCPA-MB

For more information on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission 
please visit: www.trc.ca

The Globe and Mail’s Take on the Inequality Agenda

By Errol Black and Jim Silver

On August 12, 2011, we published a Fast Facts titled, The Inequality Agenda and the Specious Ideas that Support It.  In that article we cited a July 20, 2011 Globe and Mail article by Jeffrey Simpson titled, Do we care that Canada is an unequal society? Simpson answered his question with the following observation: “Committees of both the House of Commons and Senate have issued reports on poverty: neither stirred much interest.   Income inequalities are apparently not deemed important subjects in this self-centered age.”

In response we noted that the burden of the evidence shows that most Canadians are concerned about income inequalities.   It is the obsession-driven Harper government in Ottawa — cut corporate taxes, attack trade unions and collective bargaining, dismantle institutions that provide benefits for direct producers (the Canadian Wheat Board), etc. — and the big corporations, including most of the corporate media that don’t care.

The Globe and Mail, while it claims to be Canada’s national newspaper, is a leading cheerleader for the Harper government and the corporate agenda.   It is national in the sense that it is available in all the provinces, but it does not connect with most thoughtful and concerned Canadians; indeed, it has moved in the opposite direction in recent months replacing most of its thoughtful and interesting journalists with individuals who pride themselves on being apologists for the status quo.

Against this backdrop, Jeffrey Simpson tackles the topic of inequalities once again in his October 29, 2011 column with the question: “Why aren’t we talking about income inequality?” His answer is signaled in his opening paragraphs: “Equality is fitfully in the news…Deficits are large, social programs need to be funded, the poor are growing. Ergo, the rich should pay more. So goes the simplistic argument.” From there he goes on to argue that Canadians are preoccupied with gender and regional inequalities. “Income inequality, however, seems to be the kind of inequality that Canadians don’t talk about much.” He then argues that the question of why Canada has become more “unequal in an income sense is a complicated business…And taxing [the rich] more doesn’t raise all that much money; to get real dollops of cash, governments have to tax people who consider themselves ‘middle class.’ That gets politically awkward.”

What should we make of Simpson’s arguments, apart from the fact that they are overly simplistic? Well, to start with his article is once again a defense of the status quo.  However, his basic premise, namely, that we don’t want to talk about income inequality, is wrong.  They aren’t talking about the issue in his paper (or other papers that endorse the redistribution policies of the Harper government), but there is plenty of discussion about inequality across our country.   For example, The Toronto Star regularly features articles and columns on the causes and consequences of growing inequalities in Canada.

Simpson’s claims that the issue of inequality is very complex.  It is not.  The fact of the matter is that successive Tory and Liberal governments have restructured the Canadian tax system and social and economic policies as a means of increasing income inequality and concentrating wealth and power at the top of the income distribution.  He is also wrong to say that imposing a higher tax rate on the rich would not generate much revenue.   In an October 24 column in The Toronto Star (“How to make inequality obsolete,”), Linda McQuaig suggests that modest changes to the progressive personal income tax structure (as proposed by Neil Brooks) would generate $8 billion in additional revenue.

The one useful observation that Simpson makes is that our equalization program and the “equality rights section” of the Constitution are recognized as public goods that provide benefits to all Canadian citizens.  Given that the overall poverty rate, the child poverty rate and inequality in Canada are among the highest in developed OCED countries, we would suggest that a concerted national program to reduce income inequality and poverty in this country would yield similar benefits.

The question is: where will we get the leadership to initiate debate on such an agenda?

Manitoba Legislature Called on to Oppose the Omnibus Crime Bill

The John Howard Society of Manitoba released the following statement to the press today:

A coalition of Manitoba agencies is calling on the Manitoba Legislature to oppose the omnibus crime bill now before parliament in Ottawa.

The Quebec National Assembly unanimously passed a motion last week calling on the federal government to withdraw Bill C-10 from the parliamentary agenda,

“With Bill C-10, Ottawa is about to sign a blank check that provincial governments will have to pay. The government is not giving an estimate of the costs involved, but it could be up to three times more than what the federal government is going to pay. This should be reason enough for our Legislature to ‘just say no’ to the Bill,” said Dennis Lewycky, Executive Director of the Social Planning Council.

On October 8th, Le Devoir quoted Michael Patton, a spokesperson for the Public Safety Minister Vic Toews as saying that the provinces can use Federal Transfer payments to pay for their portion of Bill C-10, neglecting to point out that transfer payments are used to fund health, education and social programs.

“Manitoba shouldn’t be forced by Parliament to build more jails at the expense of education, health and social spending, especially when we already know that putting more people in jail doesn’t reduce crime”, said John Hutton, Executive Director of the John Howard Society of Manitoba. “Ironically, education and social spending does.”

“The omnibus crime bill represents a highly expensive and damaging approach to crime, which will only serve to weaken Aboriginal communities as more and more of our people are taken away and placed in jail,” said Cora Morgan, Executive Director of Onashowewin, an Aboriginal restorative justice agency.

“The Manitoba government should join with Quebec in calling for Bill C-10 to be withdrawn, and the money saved could go to strengthening services for First Nations people,” Morgan concluded.

The organizations calling to the Manitoba Legislature to oppose Bill C-10 include:

  • BUILD Winnipeg
  • Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Kenton Eidse, Employment Counsellor
  • Elizabeth Fry Society of Manitoba
  • John Howard Society of Manitoba
  • Initiatives for Just Communities
  • Mennonite Central Committee Manitoba
  • Ogijiita Pimatiswin Kinamatwin (OPK)
  • Onashowewin Inc.
  • Social Planning Council of Winnipeg
  • Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO)

For more information about this issue see Omnibus Crime Bill Won’t Reduce Victimization Rates by Paula Mallea.

For more information about the Manitoba call to action contact John Hutton, Executive Director of the John Howard Society of Manitoba.

Prairie farmers won’t “get on” Stephen Harper’s train

by Barbara Toews

          Cartoon by Shawna Nelles



 

“It’s time for the wheat board and others who have been standing in the way to realize that this train is barrelling down a prairie track,” the Prime Minister said. “You’re much better to get on it than to lie on the tracks because this is going ahead. It’s time for the wheat board to go out in a dual marketing environment, to cultivate its customers and provide a competitive service because those customers are going to have choice in the future.” (Globe and Mail, Oct. 11, 2011)



The Harper government will be tabling a bill as early as this week which will take away farmers’ right to collectively market their own ‘Canadian Branded’ wheat around the world, and will hand it over to multinational corporations. The Harper government’s relentless, reckless and dictatorial campaign to get rid of the CWB is just one more example of how our democracy is being eroded. As Canadian citizens, we need to join together and stand up for integrity and the democratic principles we believe in.

Prairie farmers and supporters of the Canadian Wheat Board won’t give up that easily. 

On Friday October 28 at 12:00 noon, Manitobans are invited to meet in front of the Canadian Wheat Board at 423 Main St. to protest another assault on democracy by the Harper Government.

Prairie farmers will be gathering just outside of Winnipeg at the Red River Exhibition grounds for their own meeting earlier in the morning, and many of them will make their way to the Wheat Board offices in a cavalcade to join the peaceful citizens demonstration.

Barbara Toews is a partner in a grain & oilseed farm in southern Manitoba and a Provincial Council of Women Manitoba board member.

Bipole III – More Misinformation from East Side Proponents

by Shauna MacKinnon

On October 4th Manitobans gave Greg Selinger’s NDP a mandate to govern for the next four years. The NDP ran on a Doer-esque steady-as-she-goes platform with the slogan Let’s keep building. Don’t turn back.

Now that he has stepped out of Doer’s shadow with a convincing majority, how will Premier Selinger move Manitoba forward? Will he continue down the cautious path carved out in the Doer years? Or will he take some risks and do things differently?

We hope the latter. Here are some things that we think he should do.

On October 4th Manitobans gave Selinger’s NDP a mandate to govern for the next four years. The NDP ran on a Doer-esque steady-as-she-goes platform with the slogan Let’s keep building. Don’t turn back. Eyes will now be watching to see how the details unfold, giving us a better sense of the kind of legacy Selinger intends to leave. Here are some suggestions.

Health will and should be a priority. Healthcare spending consumes more than 40 percent of the provincial budget. If Manitoba is to become a national leader in health as the NDP proposes, it will need to take more seriously the social determinants of health (SDOH) by making it the central framework from which policy is developed.

The SDOH approach recognizes the many factors that determine health outcomes. A central theme is that keeping Manitobans healthy begins by increasing equality. This approach has long been endorsed by the World Health Organization, and in the internationally acclaimed best seller The Spirit Level: why more equal societies almost always do better, authors Wilkinson and Pickett provide solid evidence that demonstrates why the preventive SDOH approach promotes improved health. The CCPA-Manitoba book titled the Social Determinants of Health in Manitoba shows how this approach can be used to improve health outcomes in Manitoba.

Adequately attending to the SDOH will require a new way of working cooperatively across government departments, between levels of government and with non-government organizations to ensure that all Manitobans have sufficient income, access to safe and affordable housing, health and social services, childcare, education and so on.

The persistent problem of poverty

Research shows unequivocally that on average, people who are poor have worse health and other outcomes. The NDP government has taken some steps over the past twelve years to help those living in poverty, but they must do much more. There continues to be far too many Manitobans living in poverty and this is taking a social and economic toll.

Manitoba has passed anti-poverty legislation that has the potential to make a difference but the government continues to resist setting general targets and timelines for achieving them. They should do so just as they have in other areas such as the elimination of business taxes and increasing the number of doctors and nurses. Research shows that committing to timelines and targets delivers results. Failing to set targets to reduce poverty suggests that it is not a priority.

To begin, the Province must increase social assistance payments for those in greatest need and provide access to a variety of tools to reduce social exclusion and ensure access to jobs that pay well. By and large the NDP government has been content to allow those most marginalized to sustain themselves through the generosity of strangers and charitable giving. This is not an appropriate model for an NDP government that espouses social justice values.

Crime is an issue that is closely related to poverty. The NDP has taken leadership in supporting preventive programs that are making a difference. These efforts must be scaled up.

The Selinger government must provide stronger leadership in collaboration with the federal government and Aboriginal leaders to improve the services required by Aboriginal peoples both on and off reserves. The Aboriginal population in Manitoba is growing, it is on average younger, and Aboriginal people continue to be over represented among those with the lowest incomes and poorest health outcomes.

Comprehensive approaches to infra­structure and economic development

As a crown corporation, Manitoba Hydro is an example of an important public policy tool whose potential has not been fully realized. The NDP government has shown how Manitoba Hydro can be used to meet multiple objectives by integrating targeted training and employment into infrastructure and economic development. Comprehensive approaches can stimulate our economy and address infrastructure needs while also serving to fight poverty and crime when training and employment is targeted toward high-risk populations. This strategy is proving to be effective in northern hydro development projects as well as in projects like Winnipeg’s Building Urban Industries toward Local Development (BUILD) and the Brandon Energy Efficiency Program (BEEP). The province should scale up these kinds of projects and others that make effective use of Manitoba Hydro.

Financial resources are required to address the ever-increasing infrastructure needs in our communities. Cities and towns are demanding that provincial and federal governments provide more funding to address their “infrastructure deficits.” Manitoba already has a relatively generous program of support for municipal activities. However, it is also true that most Manitoba municipalities have serious infrastructure needs. The Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) recommends that the province provide more funding.

This idea would benefit municipalities because provincial funding would allow them to claim the credit for fixing our sewers and roads without having to raise municipal taxes. But the Province would have to find the revenue from somewhere – likely unpopular new taxes – but wouldn’t share in the glory. It’s a political problem that the Selinger government needs to resolve.

Labour rights/employment standards

The NDP government has improved employment standards and labour relations forward, but not enough. These areas too relate back to health. People need to have decent work to stay healthy. They also need to know that they won’t lose income or be fired when they are sick. For example, during the flu pandemic workers in hotels, restaurants, etc. were reluctant to take time off when ill because they would lose pay. Amending employment standards legislation to include a sick-leave scheme and a‘just cause’ clause would protect workers who are ill.

In the Social Determinants of Health in Manitoba, Black and Silver show that it is in our collective interest to have a democratic and robust trade union movement in Manitoba. The Selinger government should amend the Labour Relations Act to make it easier for workers to form unions by allowing automatic certification when unions sign up 50% + 1 of workers in a bargaining unit.

There is no shortage of work needed to move Manitoba forward. Manitobans will be watching closely to see what kind of legacy Greg Selinger will create.

Shauna MacKinnon is the director of CCPA Manitoba

PDF version.

Moving Manitoba Forward Post-election 2011

by Shauna MacKinnon

On October 4th Manitobans gave Greg Selinger’s NDP a mandate to govern for the next four years. The NDP ran on a Doer-esque steady-as-she-goes platform with the slogan Let’s keep building. Don’t turn back.

Now that he has stepped out of Doer’s shadow with a convincing majority, how will Premier Selinger move Manitoba forward? Will he continue down the cautious path carved out in the Doer years? Or will he take some risks and do things differently?

We hope the latter. Here are some things that we think he should do.

On October 4th Manitobans gave Selinger’s NDP a mandate to govern for the next four years. The NDP ran on a Doer-esque steady-as-she-goes platform with the slogan Let’s keep building. Don’t turn back. Eyes will now be watching to see how the details unfold, giving us a better sense of the kind of legacy Selinger intends to leave. Here are some suggestions.

Health will and should be a priority. Healthcare spending consumes more than 40 percent of the provincial budget. If Manitoba is to become a national leader in health as the NDP proposes, it will need to take more seriously the social determinants of health (SDOH) by making it the central framework from which policy is developed.

The SDOH approach recognizes the many factors that determine health outcomes. A central theme is that keeping Manitobans healthy begins by increasing equality. This approach has long been endorsed by the World Health Organization, and in the internationally acclaimed best seller The Spirit Level: why more equal societies almost always do better, authors Wilkinson and Pickett provide solid evidence that demonstrates why the preventive SDOH approach promotes improved health. The CCPA-Manitoba book titled the Social Determinants of Health in Manitoba shows how this approach can be used to improve health outcomes in Manitoba.

Adequately attending to the SDOH will require a new way of working cooperatively across government departments, between levels of government and with non-government organizations to ensure that all Manitobans have sufficient income, access to safe and affordable housing, health and social services, childcare, education and so on.

The persistent problem of poverty

Research shows unequivocally that on average, people who are poor have worse health and other outcomes. The NDP government has taken some steps over the past twelve years to help those living in poverty, but they must do much more. There continues to be far too many Manitobans living in poverty and this is taking a social and economic toll.

Manitoba has passed anti-poverty legislation that has the potential to make a difference but the government continues to resist setting general targets and timelines for achieving them. They should do so just as they have in other areas such as the elimination of business taxes and increasing the number of doctors and nurses. Research shows that committing to timelines and targets delivers results. Failing to set targets to reduce poverty suggests that it is not a priority.

To begin, the Province must increase social assistance payments for those in greatest need and provide access to a variety of tools to reduce social exclusion and ensure access to jobs that pay well. By and large the NDP government has been content to allow those most marginalized to sustain themselves through the generosity of strangers and charitable giving. This is not an appropriate model for an NDP government that espouses social justice values.

Crime is an issue that is closely related to poverty. The NDP has taken leadership in supporting preventive programs that are making a difference. These efforts must be scaled up.

The Selinger government must provide stronger leadership in collaboration with the federal government and Aboriginal leaders to improve the services required by Aboriginal peoples both on and off reserves. The Aboriginal population in Manitoba is growing, it is on average younger, and Aboriginal people continue to be over represented among those with the lowest incomes and poorest health outcomes.

Comprehensive approaches to infra­structure and economic development

As a crown corporation, Manitoba Hydro is an example of an important public policy tool whose potential has not been fully realized. The NDP government has shown how Manitoba Hydro can be used to meet multiple objectives by integrating targeted training and employment into infrastructure and economic development. Comprehensive approaches can stimulate our economy and address infrastructure needs while also serving to fight poverty and crime when training and employment is targeted toward high-risk populations. This strategy is proving to be effective in northern hydro development projects as well as in projects like Winnipeg’s Building Urban Industries toward Local Development (BUILD) and the Brandon Energy Efficiency Program (BEEP). The province should scale up these kinds of projects and others that make effective use of Manitoba Hydro.

Financial resources are required to address the ever-increasing infrastructure needs in our communities. Cities and towns are demanding that provincial and federal governments provide more funding to address their “infrastructure deficits.” Manitoba already has a relatively generous program of support for municipal activities. However, it is also true that most Manitoba municipalities have serious infrastructure needs. The Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) recommends that the province provide more funding.

This idea would benefit municipalities because provincial funding would allow them to claim the credit for fixing our sewers and roads without having to raise municipal taxes. But the Province would have to find the revenue from somewhere – likely unpopular new taxes – but wouldn’t share in the glory. It’s a political problem that the Selinger government needs to resolve.

Labour rights/employment standards

The NDP government has improved employment standards and labour relations forward, but not enough. These areas too relate back to health. People need to have decent work to stay healthy. They also need to know that they won’t lose income or be fired when they are sick. For example, during the flu pandemic workers in hotels, restaurants, etc. were reluctant to take time off when ill because they would lose pay. Amending employment standards legislation to include a sick-leave scheme and a‘just cause’ clause would protect workers who are ill.

In the Social Determinants of Health in Manitoba, Black and Silver show that it is in our collective interest to have a democratic and robust trade union movement in Manitoba. The Selinger government should amend the Labour Relations Act to make it easier for workers to form unions by allowing automatic certification when unions sign up 50% + 1 of workers in a bargaining unit.

There is no shortage of work needed to move Manitoba forward. Manitobans will be watching closely to see what kind of legacy Greg Selinger will create.

Shauna MacKinnon is the director of CCPA Manitoba

PDF version.

Where Has All The Affordable Housing Construction Gone?

by Sarah Cooper

For most of the ’80s, at least 10 percent of the new housing built in Canada was affordable housing. After 1993, the number dropped to less than one percent. This means that very little housing that is affordable to lower income families is now being built in Canada.



Combined with increasing housing costs and the growing gap between upper income earners and lower and middle income earners, this is putting a serious crunch on housing.

It’s no wonder that over the last two decades, the number of homeless, hidden homeless, and precariously housed people in Canada has skyrocketed.

Thanks to Michael Shapcott (Wellesley Institute) for the original chart.

Election 2011 UnSpun

Bipole III: Where the Rubber Hits the Road

by Lynne Fernandez

Unfortunately, the Bipole III debate has become a hot potato in the current provincial election. However, debates of this nature will become more common as we as a society deal with environmental and First Nations’ issues and concerns. This slide show explains why.

 

Click Here to read or download the 4-page CCPA Review “Where The Rubber Hits The Road” from our website.

75 eminent scientists from around the world – including David Schindler – support the push to run Bipole III down the West side and conserve the East side. Read their letter here.


Election 2011 UnSpun

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.