Public sector services should not be privatized

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Added: Wed, 05/23/2018 - 11:09am
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Carl Hager
Éditorialiste Invitée
Guest Editorialist

Clichés abound in political discourse: during elections or discussions on controversial matters, it is easier to use a cliché rather than think an idea through; although often true, clichés do not get to the heart of the matter. Reality is more complex, and hence more difficult to deal with.
The forthcoming provincial elections in Ontario this summer and in Québec this fall will provide ample evidence of clichés. Our duty as responsible citizens is to reject clichés and get politicians to speak honestly.
One such cliché is that the private sector can do “it” better than government. Understandably, a vendor selling hot dogs at a fair can do that better than government, but there are other offerings that need an accountable body behind them to preserve and respect privacy, like public services. We wouldn’t want CISSSO selling information about our individual medical care to merchants so all and sundry can bid on providing us better remedies.
Given the recent concerns with Facebook, which sold the private information of its users to other corporations, it is apparent that often the private way of doing things is not better.
Clearly, some companies are so large they feel above the law. In the industrialized and digitalized West, corporations are becoming huge entities; they are now big enough to dictate, influence and challenge governmental social and economic policy. The USA is a prime example of how rich, private companies influence government, from the NRA telling citizens guns are good and should be in the hands of teachers, to oil giants like Exxon who influence the way government talks about climate change and the environment. Are these examples of good social policy?
Tim Hortons was once thought of as a neat “mom-and-pop” business opened by a famous Toronto Maple Leaf defenceman; today, it belongs to a giant international corporation that squeezes franchisees and customers to grow its bottom line. Loblaws conspires with its competition to keep the price of bread artificially high. Walmart brings in manufactured goods from China and elsewhere by the boatload because they are cheaper.
We are easily seduced by cheaper products. Think of all the corner department stores that have gone under because of giant retailers.
So yes, society needs small business owners, but today, we have many huge “private” corporations driving the economic engine. The small business owner can be influenced by personal discussion and familiarity. We buy from them willingly because they provide good service and a fair product. The huge corporation is remote, difficult to access, with buffers of digitalized intervenors.
In our discussions, especially when talking about politics, when we say private is better, it is essential we know what we mean. Our lives depend on it!