The Ontario election and the rebranding of privatization

ontario election leaders

Monday morning the province of Ontario officially initiated a new electoral cycle which will end on the 12th of June, but Ontarians have been gripping for an election since the departure of scandal ridden Dalton McGuinty in October 2012. Since that fateful day, the Liberal Party of Ontario under the leadership of premier Wynne has been trying desperately to shed their old skin and rebrand themselves as a renewed progressive force in Ontario politics.

Now the Liberal Party of Ontario in many ways is more “progressive” than their current federal counterparts and Dalton McGuinty’s line and the policies spearheaded by his government were in many ways more to the left of the policies that were defended by the Liberal Party on the federal level. They did have concerns for social justice and the fight against inequality at heart, theoretically speaking.

The downfall of the LPO government came as a surprise to many. The absence of readiness for this election is most noticeable in the way that the political parties themselves, even the NDP, were caught off guard by the swift dropping of the writ.

When NDP leader Andrea Horwath decided to announce to her fellow Ontarians that she would vote against the Liberal budget, thus prompting an election, the media pundits ran amok in every column and every article online and on paper denouncing the NDP’s hypocrisy, voting against a “dream budget” for pure electoral reasons. They were all out-of-line.

When Andrea Horwath appeared in front of the cameras on Friday, a day after the budget was tabled at Queen’s Park (the name of the Ontario Provincial Legislature) one word was key in her speech: confidence. It might as well have been hypocrisy.

public private partnerships

The LPO has been in government for the past ten years, almost eleven, and their track record is quite obvious. The centerpiece of their policy is undeniably the public-private partnerships that have become the motto and the modus operandi of the province of Ontario.

The “yours to privatize” motto was first largely implemented by the respective Harris cabinets in the 1990s and many are quick to draw a very clear distinction between the Liberal administration and the Harris era. And in the rhetorical terms and in theory they were different but in practice… well not that much!

The LPO are truly the champions of rebranding in the sense that they have had the ability to make the privatization pill go down with greater ease. But no matter what you call it privatizations are still privatizations, and “public-private” partnerships are privatizations on steroids.

In the dimension of “public-private” partnerships, the government in most cases has only one role: to foot the bill. If anything goes wrong, the costs are socialized but the profits are privatized.

It’s a carefully crafted strategy to guarantee the façade of public institutions while privatizing more and more sections within them. Thus the “public” side is slowly but surely supplanted by a more robust private sector with a lot of help from the government, supposedly the champions of strong, affordable, public institutions.

Either the Liberal party of Ontario is corrupt, hypocritical or naïve to its core. Their naivety is best manifested in the idea that somehow you can table a progressive budget that is supposed to reinvigorate the Ontarian safety net, social security and help fight against the growing inequality in the province while on the other hand continue to defend ardently the public-private partnership scheme.

Unfortunately those two positions are incompatible and that is why anyone that stands for social justice and for the defense of public systems of health care and education had to oppose the “dream budget” put forward by the LPO because that’s exactly what it is, an illusion.

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