In Canada: Privatizing Public Service

Posted 01.17.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Consider this: you are a political leader, a conservative one, elected to lead a non-conservative society. Your agenda, following the American Right's determination to privatize as many services as possible, seems stymied by Canadians' appreciation of public services (health, for example). What do you do?

Do you push on ahead (or backwards) and eliminate as many government-run services as possible in favour of the private sector? You would invite a lot of counter-pressure -- protests and petitions-which create the impression of your being an ideologue, above all, and a polarizing and divisive figure?

Obviously, the neo-con bulldozer is not an effective tool, but you still have your agenda of privatization. Your corporate backers have donated for that very purpose: privatization. A smart leader would put on the velvet gloves, wouldn't he?

Instead of privatizing CBC -- long a dream of Canada's Reform/Conservatives -- cut its budget, fill its management with hostile people (party donors, mainly), running the CBC slowly into the ground so the public, not the right-wingers, asks if a corporation couldn't do the job better.

Presto -- privatization, and by the very people who originally insisted we keep our national services.

CBC/Radio Canada did suffer a cut of $115 million to its funding, followed by a stuffing of its board of directors with Conservative Party donors.

Second -- is the post office, facing powerful corporate interests, asking for the parcel and mail business. How would this Harper Formula work?

Basically, it drives the post office into bankruptcy, making it too expensive for taxpayers to support.

The Internet has already hit it hard, so increasing postage and parcel rates means business revenues decline even further. With the revenues down, run up the costs. Appoint a political guy to run the post office and pay him roughly $600,000 a year (with perks). Add a whole bunch of vice-presidents, all well-paid. Say, appoint twenty-two vice presidents.

Yup, Canada’s post office has twenty-two well-paid vice-presidents.

Hire consultants to come up with new ‘products’ and services, all exceptionally expensive to construct, to operate, and make sure they aren't very effective in customer services.

Add to this a union focused exclusively on immediate concerns and their own members' economic issues. Allow that union plenty of power to slow things down.

Mission accomplished. The citizenry grows outraged their taxes are supporting such an inefficient mail service. Sell it to the private sector!

Do we get this? The Harper Doctrine applies this hollow-out-from-within formula to all the other privatization targets. The public will cry to privatize and stem the gush of tax dollars to them.

Health services are the really, really lucrative targets, but this approach is also aimed at education and training (support private, or ‘charter’ schools and institutes), food inspection, drug testing, border guards, prisons, toll highways, grain marketing, plus environmental and fisheries oversight.

Much more effective than shutting the whole government down, as the American conservatives have done to make their point.


Copyright © 2014 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/01.14