Labour groups continue to blast province for sale of public utility as controversial privatization progresses
TORONTO—The province of Ontario has completed its second sell-off of Hydro One shares, adding approximately $1.7 billion to public coffers while continuing to draw harsh criticism from a number of high-profile labour groups.
Following the company’s initial public offering last November, the province sold off approximately 72.5 million common shares April 13, Hydro One announced Thursday—leaving Ontario with approximately 427.5 million shares, or control of 71.9 per cent of the company. For a 30-day period, the deal’s underwriters, RBC Capital Markets and Scotiabank, also have the option to purchase nearly 11 million further shares through an over-allotment agreement. If the banks exercise their options in full, Ontario will maintain control of just over 70 per cent of Hydro One.
Throughout the controversial process, Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario government have maintained the sell-off will help fund infrastructure and transit projects across the province. A large number of Ontarians, as well as several labour groups are still not convinced, however, and continue to call on the province to halt the privatization at this late stage.
“The Wynne Government has no mandate to sell off an irreplaceable public asset that was created as a legacy for future generations,” said Ahmad Gaied, executive vice-president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, following the announcement of the sale last week. “Premier Wynne was elected to be a guardian of the public trust, not to hold a fire sale on Hydro One.”
Fred Hahn, the president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees for Ontario also joined the call to stop the sale, saying it was an “affront to democracy.”
“Right now, we still own 85 percent of Hydro One together,” Hahn said prior to this week’s sell-off. “Let’s keep it that way. The vast majority of Ontarians have said—repeatedly—that they want to keep Hydro public. The Liberals should respect that desire and stop this sale, especially while their relationship with the banks is under the cloud of scandal.”
Despite pointing to criticism of the Liberal government’s fundraising practices, which has surfaced recently in wide-running reports, the labour groups’ calls to halt the sale again came up short.
Ultimately, the province plans to sell 60 per cent of the utility.