From Queen’s Park – MNR privatization hurts our economy

Sarah Campbell-MPPKENORA – LEADERS LEDGER – In recent years, privatization has been a buzzword used by various governments to demonize our public servants.

Whether it is the provincial or federal government, the public service has become a scapegoat for reckless government spending, including hundreds of millions of dollars that are wasted on well-connected consultants each year.

While it is bad enough that governments are willing to sacrifice service standards in an effort to reduce payroll, the true effects of privatization are clearly shown by the Ontario government’s decision to locate a Ministry of Natural Resources call centre, offering technical support to hunting and fishing license issuers, in Tennessee. Even the moose tag draw now happens in Tennessee.

At a time when thousands of people are out of work, this government not only privatized a service, but took jobs that were in Ontario and located them not only outside Ontario, but outside Canada.

One thing governments do not want you to know is privatization opens a whole can of worms that can not only lead to, but encourage, outsourcing. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) requires a competitive bid system that means the lowest bid that appears to meet the requirements of the tender, must be accepted. This means quite literally that should a government choose to privatize, it cannot legally award the contract to an Ontario-based company if a company located in the U.S. or Mexico submits a lower bid.

In fact, it was poor service standards that brought this issue to my attention, as I received a number of complaints from license issuers that the hours being maintained by the call-centre were incompatible with their peak hours of business.

Under privatization the focus shifts from service delivery and standards of excellence, to the bottom line. The more corners that can be cut, will be cut, not in favour of better wages or living standards for the employee but in profits for an owner, or shareholders, who may never set foot in the province of Ontario.

Instead of employing Ontario workers, who pay income tax and spend their earnings in local communities and businesses, all the money is sent out of our region, at a net loss to the province. What savings are gained through lower wages are lost through lost income tax, sales tax, property tax and other revenues that stem from someone living and working in Ontario.

Yet short-sighted governments continue to employ this method to pass the blame for their poor decisions on civil servants who are simply trying to make ends meet.

It is for this reason, I and my party continue to oppose privatization, because we understand the value these jobs provide not only to taxpayers, but also to their local and regional economies.

Sarah Campbell MPP
Kenora Rainy River