OPSEU President, Smokey Thomas, Speaks Out on P3’s & 407 ETR

OPSEU President, Smokey Thomas, released an article on the history of privatizing public services from his vantage point in the public sector. He calls privatization a failed policy that just won’t go away … An #epicfail. http://www.opseu.org/information/epic-fail-short-history-privatization-ontario His job is to protect the public sector and the workers in that sector.  Regardless of whether you are in the public or private sector, I am sure you agree that public services need to be protected.

For the group “Stop the 407 ETR’s Abuse of Power” the question around Highway 407 has never been whether it’s delivered privately or publicly, but whether this public service can be delivered without political interference?  While the group agrees with many of the things Smokey Thomas talks about, the group insists that proper oversight and regulation is the real answer.  When you look at the history of this highway, there were many challenges because we are creatures of habit and don’t really like change… even though we cry out change is what we want.

October 1st, 1990 saw NDP’s, Bob Rae become Ontario’s 21st Premier.  Up to the time he was elected Premier, the Ministry of Transportation was responsible to build the roads the public needed. Budgets were done on a year to year basis and monies came from General Revenues (TAXES). Even larger projects that would take several years only had funds dedicated on a year to year basis with no guarantee that funds would be available the following year to continue or complete a larger project. Combine that with the fact that the Ministry of Transportation favored a number of smaller companies throughout the Province, building the 69 KM stretch would have taken until the year 2020 to complete.  Premier Rae had a serious dilemma because building this highway, in a speedy manner and being able to pay for it became a pressing issue.

Another thing Premier Rae wanted to change was how decisions to build roads were being made.  He wanted it based on priorities rather than politics.  In the previous Liberal government, letters would be sent out to these smaller road builders soliciting political donations after a contract was awarded. 
So, in an attempt to curb political interference, reduce construction time and costs, Premier Rae started exploring new road pricing methods that would tap into the private sector’s larger companies and invite consortia’s to bid on the project.  In essence, the road would not be built by taxpayers, but rather the private sector financed by tolls.  
This definitely ruffled feathers at the Ministry of Transportation and public sector workers because their mandate was changed from builder of roads to being responsible for the movement of goods and people. This possibly lead to covert opposition and could be the core reason why it seems we are getting nowhere changing 407 ETR’s outrageous business practices.  I think Premier Rae had good intentions behind the changes he implemented, but true to form, politics interfered in successive governments. Hence the reason the group’s question on how to stop political interference when delivering public services, whether it be privately or publicly, is a good question.
On a positive note, Smokey Thomas speaking out against the corruption seen in P3 schemes such as 407 ETR is a good thing for supporters of the group “Stop the 407 ETR’s Abuse of Power”.  It starts the conversation and will hopefully lead to fixing the problems surrounding this highway once and for all.  The group has always held the belief that public services, whether they are delivered publicly or privately, ought to have proper oversight and regulation to prevent the political interference we have seen with 407 ETR that has caused the public more harm than good. The group is happy and hopeful that with unions like OPSEU stepping up and speaking out, it will lead to fixing the problems surrounding this highway once and for all. 
Now that an election is just around the corner, the group needs your voice heard more than ever so that the people that are elected will know that 407 ETR is an important issue and a priority to fix. Please continue to sign and share our petition http://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/change-the-407act to appeal to the government to regulate this company.
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One Response to “OPSEU President, Smokey Thomas, Speaks Out on P3’s & 407 ETR”

  1. D Murphy says:

    We are sending the 407 ETR a bill, for lost wages since 2008,@ $25.00 dollars an hour for 12 months of every year. Due to false plate denial/fines, by the MTO, for the fraudulant billing practices of the 407ETR.
    I can not believe the province has let the 407 ETR break all the Legislated laws, that protect people of Ontario from opression in Canada.
    I wonder if they, the 407, will settle out of court? HaHa
    Have a nice day 🙂

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