This one's long. But it's important. I've tried not to go postal down here, and tried to keep my arguments germane.
Lately my government, which had no mandate to make the sweeping and destructive changes it has already wrought in my little country, has been chatting up privatization, with serious words
like "scrutiny" and "public funds."
They're strapped for cash, their financial incompetence is on full display, and they really need some scapegoats. So they have declared that privatization is the solution. It'd put some desperately needed billions back in "the taxpayer's" (read: the government's) pocket.
Atomic Energy of Canada is first on the chopping block. Last year Harper made headlines by firing Canada's nuclear safety watchdog
for proposing to shut down Chalk River nuke plant for maintenance. His excuse was that such a shutdown wasn't necessary, and would deprive Canadians of vital supplies of medical isotopes.
This week Chalk River developed problems and had to be shut down. Nothing was mentioned by Mr. Harper or his stooges about a shortage of isotope supply, other than that we should expect one
But the Harperites DID begin making rumbling noises about how inefficient government-run companies (Crown corporations) are, and mused about privatizing AECL.
It must be a great temptation. They're staring down $50 billion of debt the voters aren't likely to forgive them for. They'll never win a majority now unless someone gets pics of Michael Ignatieff actually sodomizing a Canada goose (and even then it's probably a coin toss).
So why not add a few billion to the balance sheet by flogging some Crown land, some Crown corporations?--Hell, maybe even some Crown Royal.
There's just one problem. Well, a couple. Three actually. Well I can think of four:
1) Crown Corporations often occupy a niche that private industry either didn't want or shouldn't be allowed to have. For example, private companies retailing isotopes provided by Atomic Energy of Canada have doubled or tripled their prices
in repsonse to the shutdown. The AECL factory price hasn't changed.
Imagine what'd happen if a private-for-profit outfit got hold of the main supply of medical isotopes for the world.
2) It's quite hard to flog the non-profiting bits of Crown corps. Sure you can bitch about all the public money you're putting in, but does that make it much more attractive to private investment? So you're either selling only the good bits, or a resource--something irreplaceable that private firms want their hands on in the worst way.
3) Finally this. These aren't corporations. They're Crown Corporations. There are times when divestiture of public assets makes some sense. But we've already done that--We had two prior recessions in the past thirty years. During those recessions, and ever since, we've cut public service jobs, "trimmed fat" and reduced public corporate investment to record lows.
Moreover, they're mostly irreplaceable resources: If the Harperites flog AECl there's no getting it back. We can't just build another $30-bn reactor and set up shop anew. For one thing the Oppostion Conservatives (you surely don't believe they'll be in government, do you?) will scream blue murder at the "unfair" competition by the state enterprise ... or at the tax dollars spent on it, either way they win.
And the stuff that isn't resource is even less suitable for privatization. Now we know Harper hates the CBC. It does a decent job of reporting and is noteably unbiased. But of course, since Harper's world doesn't correspond to reality he loathes it the way he loathes the taste of an overcooked baby. He much prefers FOX, as we know.
But it's not an "asset"--It's our heritage.
4) Finally: it's not his to sell
No government has the automatic right to sell publicly-owned property in the first place--They are there to manage it. Such management might well require selling it off, eventually, but not at fire-sale prices for the expediency of trying to tuck in your own financial shirt-tail.
This isn't a selloff to improve the efficiency of government or industry, or protect the public purse. Its purpose is twofold: One, to pour more money into the government balance sheet so that their performance doesn't look so damn pitiful, and two, to see if they can sell their free-market-uber-alles
ideology while doing it.
Harper doesn't have a majority, doesn't have a mandate, and has not the right to sell any of these assets.
Oh, and um, speaking of assets ... 'Cause those Conservatives must have missed it, being so concerned for taxpayer dollars and all ... Do you think the Canadian government did serious studies into GM's performance before pouring $7.1 bn taxpayer bucks in "loans
" into it?
I guess that's different--GM's a private company, and it's all free-markety and presumably efficient and profity and $#17 like that.
Pull the trigger, Mr. Ignatieff. I'd hold my nose and vote for you to chase this dangerous loser and his crack brained coterie of misanthropic, uncharitable, vicious dogs out of my country's highest offices.
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