TORONTO, April 3, 2012 /CNW/ - The provincial Liberal's plan to privatize public services - from hospital surgeries to the sell-off of Ontario Northland "will compromise public safety and deliver less service at a higher cost," says Michael Hurley the Ontario president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).
Like Ontario Northland, British Rail did not turn a profit and received government subsidy. Reducing the government's funding support for British Rail was the main reason given by the British government for privatization of the rail service. Before it was fully privatized in 1997, British Rail had a stellar safety record with only one fatal accident due to track failure in five decades. After it was privatized, between 1998 and 2004, 39 people were killed due to lax safety standards and poor track maintenance.
Few passenger rail services in the world are profitable "but people in remote communities rely on them and subsidized public transit is a critical part of our infrastructure. It is key to dealing with climate change. By selling-off Ontario Northland, the Liberals are turning their back on northern residents, their struggling economies and the environment," says Hurley.
Today the British government is still providing billions of pounds in subsidies to the private service. That's about half the system's operating costs and a far higher subsidy than was ever given to British Rail. "Only now a significant portion of that public money is going into investors' pockets rather into track maintenance and increased public safety. Why would the Liberals ape the rail privatization disaster of the United Kingdom?" Hurley asks.
In the recent provincial budget, the Liberals outlined plans for a series of privatization initiatives, the sale of Ontario Northland and moving surgeries and medical procedures into independent clinics outside of hospitals. Surgeries will be headquartered in the largest urban centres. This will set the stage for the transfer of these procedures to private corporations.
"Like the Afghan government, the Liberals now hold only urban strongholds and have abandoned the countryside" says Hurley. "Isolated, distant northern communities are desperately dependent on a viable, subsidized, safe system of rail transportation to support their precarious economies. It is the responsibility of all Ontarians to ensure that this system remains in place, publicly delivered."
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President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU)