Provincial Liberals Selling Off Hydro One Despite Public Opposition

Despite 80% of Ontarians being against the sale of Hydro One, the provincial Liberal government is moving ahead with its selloff to private investors.
The independent Provincial Financial Accountability Office has even warned about the loss of provincial revenue that would result from the sale. The provincial ombudsman and other watchdogs have also warned against the secretive manner of the sale.
Shortly after the provincial election, the Liberal government surprised the public by selling off 60% of Hydro One. To date, 30% has been sold meaning the public still currently owns the majority of shares.

The sale has been a hotly debated topic at Queen’s Park. This October, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath moved a motion to end any further sale of this important public asset. “We need to make crucial changes to stop the rising cost of hydro and stop the privatization that’s driving those cost increases,” said Horwath.

“The priority of our hydro system shouldn’t be generating big profits for investors. It should be to provide affordable electricity that keeps people’s bills as low as possible.”
The motion did not pass due to the opposition of Liberal and Conservative MPPs.

Downsview residents continue to see rising hydro bills, a cost many simply cannot afford. The rising costs particularly affect properties with electrical heating for the colder months.
Bibi Ali, a local Condominium Board President, represents one such property where some residents face $1000 bills during the winters. She was surprised to hear about the hydro sell-off when it started and fears that privatization will only make the situation worse.”It’s not fair that our hydro bills are so high,” said Bibi. “The government should have asked people instead of just going ahead and selling things off.”

A number of organizations opposed to the selloff of Hydro One, have put together a website (www.keephydropublic.ca) with a lot of great information and opportunities to take a stand against the sale.

If the government continues in its sell-off plan, the public will lose the majority say on the future of hydro. The provincial Liberal government should listen to the will of the public and stop any further sale before they make a bad situation only worse.

Urgent Care Closed at Jane and Finch Hospital

July 2016 marked the end of urgent care at the Humber River Hospital site located at Jane and Finch.  The location will continue to provide CT, MRI and general x-rays.

The news may be bitter sweet for many residents who are watching the sun set on the community’s old York Finch Hospital, while services are being redirected to the new hospital located near Keele and Wilson.

Joe Astrella, President of the Grandravine Homeowners Assocation, says the old York Finch Hospital played a large role in his life.

When Joe moved into the community in the late 1960’s he immediately took up the call to help in fundraising for the York Finch Hospital that was under construction.  In 1970, his daughter Grace was born there and over the years, his family would drop by when the need arose.  In 1994, Joe credits the hospital for saving his life following a heart attack.

When talk began of expanding the Humber River Hospital network a decade ago, Joe joined a coalition of local residents who favoured expansion of the Jane and Finch site rather than moving it to a new location.

Joe learned of the urgent care closure through this interview and believed residents should have been better notified since the news came as a surprise to him.

Without proper notification, some residents might seek medical assistance at the hospital only to find out through a sign that they will have to seek help elsewhere.

“I am disappointed.” said Joe, “When I was active with the coalition, we were told that the Humber River Hospital site on Church Street would be closing, but that emergency services would still be provided at our Jane and Finch location.”

As services continue to be cut back at the Jane and Finch hospital location, the time may well come when the government decides to pull the plug on our local hospital once and for all.  A disappointing outcome indeed.

For more information on the new Humber River Hospital or the urgent care closure, residents can visit www.hrh.ca or call 416-242-1000.

 

 

Better Regulations of Predatory Lenders Needed

When Joseph’s car broke down a week before his paycheque he needed fast money to pay the $1000 repair bill. Without savings, available credit or a network of family and friends who could help him financially, he decided to go to a payday advance loan agency (think Money Mart, Cash Money, etc.).

Like using a credit card, Joseph figured there would be little to no interest if he paid back the loan on time. When he went to pay back the $1000 loan two weeks later, he was charged $300 (30%) in interest.

Based on his experience Joseph expressed concern for others, “It’s a vicious cycle. A person could easily end up needing a payday loan to pay back a payday loan. I would never go back.”

Enter Rohan.  Living with a disability and in his fifties, Rohan felt reborn when he fell in love and was happily planning a wedding.  Without available funds to pay for even a small celebration, a friend suggested he get a payday advance loan.

Rohan ended up borrowing from three different lenders to pay the minimum payment for his growing debt.  After borrowing from friends and scraping by for two years, Rohan was able to pay back what he owed.

Such experiences are common for many residents in our community where the number of payday advance lenders roughly equal the number of Tim Horton’s.  In desperation, individuals and families often turn to them for help, only to make their financial situation far worse.

Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) has taken a lead role in the fight against ‘predatory lenders’.

ACORN’s spokesperson on this campaign, Donna Borden, has personally experienced the bottomless pit of high interest debt when she took out a $10,000 installment loan.  Five years later, Donna had paid back $15,000 and still had to pay $8,000 to clear the debt.

“The loan never gets paid off because there are additional charges and then at the end you are still paying the cost of the initial loan.” said Donna. ”The terms were changed several times without my consent.”

The provincial government is currently reviewing legislation around payday advance and other forms of high interest lending, but organizations like ACORN want to ensure that any changes will prioritize the needs of the public rather than the lenders.

ACORN (www.acorncanada.org) demands include reducing the criminal rate of interest, instituting a minimal distance between such lenders, an enforceable complaint process for consumers, public banking (through Canada Post) as an alternative (visit www.cupw.ca), and the creation of an independent loan database to prevent different payday lenders to loan to the same borrower (called concurrent loans).

Quickcheck Canada, a company that provides software to payday lenders agrees with ACORN on the need for an independent loan database.

“If we do not adequately address the issue (of concurrent payday loans) we will have a lot of desperate people taking out multiple payday loans on the strength of a single paycheque.” says Roy Toker, Executive Vice President of Quickcheck Canada.

Presently, concurrent payday loans are illegal however, lenders ask desperate borrowers to simply sign a waiver stating they have no other payday loans.  Roy says that this loophole could be closed by requiring payday lenders to register each payday loan with the proposed database.  Lenders would then see if a borrower had an outstanding payday loan and therefore have no excuse to lend.

In March 2016, City of Toronto Council voted to ask the province for better regulation of predatory lenders.  Local Councillors Maria Augimeri and Anthony Perruzza were in favour of better legislation.

Both Donna and Joseph hope the government will act quickly in strengthening laws to protect individuals from predatory lending while Rohan’s focus is elsewhere.  “As long as struggling families have to pay more than half of their salary on rent and other basic needs, people will always be in a desperate situation.” he concluded.