Category Archives: Politics

Why Hydro One should not be privatized

Hydro One Voltage Lines in Woodbridge Ontario, photo Tom Stefanac, from Wikipedia

Hydro One Voltage Lines in Woodbridge Ontario, photo Tom Stefanac, from Wikipedia

The privatization of Hydro One is a terrible idea, for many reasons. There is one argument that I have not seen in the press, and I’d like to present it now.

The idea that retaining the single largest portion of shares guarantees control is naive. The danger is not total loss of ownership. The danger (and inevitable effect) is that on an ongoing basis decisions will be weighed in terms of what the shareholders will think. Will they sell? Will the value go down? Up? The corruption is not in the gross effect, but in the innumerable details of policy driven by a financial system that is out of control.

When any company goes public and sells shares, a new element is introduced that often overrides everything else: shareholder value. When shareholders are added, the need to keep the value of the shares continually rising overrides everything else. The market is extremely sensitive, volatile and focused on the short term. This becomes the primary driver of policy.

A government should be making policy in the best interests of its citizens. It also has a responsibility to its suppliers, part of keeping the economy healthy. It should not be making policy to satisfy the needs of investors staring at their computer screens and deciding whether or buy or sell.

Neo-nazis on the tube

We had a chilling experience last night on the London Tube Circle Line. A noisy, drunken crowd of men, and one women, piled on the train, singing and shouting. They had extreme east-end accents, so that even my relatively well-tuned Canadian ear could hardly make out anything that they were saying. I assumed that they were rugby louts, and watched and listened, though everyone else in the car (an Indian family, a young man of colour) looked elsewhere.
Finally, Judith whispered in my ear “they’re white supremacists. They’re singing about raping Moslem women”. I listened even more closely. She was right.
The Indian family and the young man got off at the next stop. The louts looked in my direction in a friendly manner, having noticed my interest. I didn’t want them to think that I was sympathetic, so I nodded to Judith and we moved away down the train.
It felt like something from the 1930s, Nazis singing the Horst Wessel song. What was particularly upsetting was that these yahoos were not really bad people, just not terribly bright and without much going for them, who were out for a good time. Going home, some of them, to wives and children. They were having fun singing together and enjoying companionship. They could have been sing bawdy songs (offensive enough, but not racist). Instead, they were shouting out these virulent hate-filled songs and cheers.
They hadn’t made the songs up themselves. They weren’t songwriters. Someone else had written the songs and taught them to the louts. Got them drunk, got them singing, and sent them out to get on the tube to terrorize women and children. Who is writing these songs?
I learned today that the Harper government has just passed a bill removing hate speech from the Canadian Human Rights Act. I guess Canada’s hate-song writers will breathe a little easier.