OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas was not surprised that more privatization was being slipped in under cover of apparently harmless legislation. “The devil is in the details and never more so than with this Liberal government" said Thomas.
Toronto (15 Mar. 2016) — In a move to further privatize his ministry’s functions, Environment and Climate Change Minister Glen Murray is considering involving the for-profit sector in carrying out inspections.
Bill 151, the Waste-Free Ontario Act, 2016, was introduced in the legislature in late 2015 in the wake of the Environmental Handling Fees (often called eco fees on consumer electronics and other products) and Ontario Tire Stewardship scandals. Among other things, Bill 151 would give the ministry the ability to contract out inspection services.
Privatizing environmental inspection?
The ministry currently employs environmental officers. Environmental officers are peace officers who carry a badge and undergo very specified compliance training on the many pieces of legislation, regulations and policies that the ministry enforces. Experience gained from accompanying senior staff on inspections helps officers to be effective, and respectful to the clients and facilities they inspect.
Bill 151 would permit the use of inspectors who carry a certificate of appointment, suggesting they will not be Crown employees. This is of grave concern to Chris Johnston, himself an environmental inspector and president of local 208 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE).
“This is another example of government privatization resulting in the waste of taxpayers’ money,” said Johnston. “Rather than hiring more environmental officers, the government wants to bring in private inspection agencies. If past privatizations are anything to go by, these agencies will charge the ministry more for the same service, while its employees are paid less. It makes absolutely no sense."
Public safety will suffer
Johnston adds that “we don't do our work for profit, so corners are never cut. That’s what happened with the Walkerton crisis and the more recent listeria outbreaks. Both resulted from private regulators.
“Look what happened when the Ministry of Transportation used a private contractor to do road maintenance. Carillion was found guilty of burying drums of toxic oil and weather paint protective coating on ministry lands in Huntsville. That’s what comes of leaving stewardship of our fragile environment in for-profit hands.”
No surprise to OPSEU
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas was not surprised that more privatization was being slipped in under cover of apparently harmless legislation. “The devil is in the details and never more so than with this Liberal government,” said Thomas.
"It’s not trumpeted at their grandiose announcements or in their splashy press releases, but beneath all the hype, there’s a quiet scheme to give the private sector a bigger piece of the public pie. It’s just more privatization by stealth.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE