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Uncommon News: Golden Leech Awards tackle power and water plants

Toronto, ON -- Dec. 1, 2001 -- In a public ceremony hosted earlier this week by political comedian Greg Malone, "Go...


Toronto, ON — Dec. 1, 2001 — In a public ceremony hosted earlier this week by political comedian Greg Malone, “Golden Leech” awards were presented to corporations who have been “sucking the blood of Canadian taxpayers through their involvement in privatization of public services.”

The awards, presented by the Consider the Costs Coalition, representing over 1.5 million Canadians, were in sharp contrast to the rosy picture being painted by the pro- privatization Canadian Council for Public Private Partnerships at its recent award ceremony.

Awards were also presented to “Friends of the Golden Leech” for actions taken by governments to create a “leech-friendly environment.”

But the ceremony was not all bad news, the Coalition also celebrated those who have struggled to protect public services by awarding the Caretaker of the Commons Awards.

Golden Leech Award winners:

British Energy for taking over the Bruce Nuclear Power Plants and in doing so transferring the risk and the debt to the public and keeping the profit for itself. Their sweet deal with the province allows it to have only $75 million liability insurance and to dump the clean-up costs on taxpayers once their 18-year deal is finished. Award- presenter, Paul Kahnert, Ontario Electricity Coalition.

Andersen Consulting: Its contract with the Provincial Tories is unsurpassed. It has billed $26,000 in non-receipted expenses, charged for consultants six times higher than the standard rate, spent twice their budget and failed to meet deadlines — leading the Auditor-General to question whether the government is getting value for money in this agreement. In making this award, Leah Casselman, president, Ontario Public Service Employees Union, said, “this leech has locked onto an artery. ”

Canadian Radiation and Oncology Services for its enthusiasm for making money out of people when they are most vulnerable — and allowing queue jumpers to pay for services in their evening clinic. Stan Marshall, Canadian Health Coalition, said “it’s time to pour a little salt on this leech. If we want to give blood, let us do so through the blood donor system.”

United Parcel Service (UPS) was awarded the Golden Leech for undermining democracy by using the NAFTA to sue the Canadian Government for providing a publicly funded postal network. Award presenter, Deborah Bourque, vice-president, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, said “this is an institution that the sharks have been circling for some time — they are demanding $230 million for parcels they never delivered nor have even seen.”

“Friend of the Leech” Awards:

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Government for its success in creating a “leech- friendly environment,” evicting 25,000 children from their schools, creating two school boards the size of France, cutting $2.2 billion from education, leaving 37,000 children on waiting lists for counselling services, and setting space requirements in schools at only 100 square feet per child. Said award presenter, Annie Kidder of People for Education, “that’s only half as much as they require at the Stanley Park Zoo — for monkeys!”

Hamilton City Council: for making it possible for private water and waste water companies to siphon tax dollars out of Hamilton — and into Houston, Texas and now to Germany. Bruce Davidson of Concerned Walkerton Citizens, said “the parallels to the privatization of Walkerton’s water testing is alarming — just like Walkerton, there was no tendering and the contract has been given to a company with no track record in water testing. We can’t even keep track of who to call if things go wrong. Ownership has since flipped three times — Phillip to Enron to RWE.”

Caretaker of the Commons Awards

Ontario Electricity Coalition: for recognizing the importance of maintaining a public system of electrical generation and distribution and for strong advocacy in the public interest

Concerned Walkerton Citizens: in recognition of a courageous response to an unanticipated crisis, and a continuing commitment to the importance of strong public services

Citizens Against Private Prisons in recognition of a remarkable campaign to keep correctional facilities in public hands. Their work is helping to build a strong and caring community.

Ontario Liquor Board Employees Union in recognition of their innovative work in raising community awareness of the dangers of privatization and benefits of public ownership.

Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Council of Canadians, Steve Shrybmann and other members of the Vancouver community for not only successfully fighting off the opening of a privately operated water treatment but ensuring that the operation would be financed, owned and operated by the public sector.

Health Coalitions at the Local, Provincial and Federal levels for their ongoing and growing campaign to keep the critical service of health care in public hands.

People for Education for their tireless efforts in defending a fully publicly funded education system.

For more information, visit www.socialjustice.org, the website of the Centre for Social Justice, based in Toronto.