By Gerard Di Trolio
After having abandoned promises like funding for First Nations education and electoral reform, the Trudeau government is now flirting with a policy that no one was promised: airport privatization.
Although airport privatization was not in the current federal budget, the government is still considering it. Trudeau continues dodge the question, refusing to give a clear yes or no on the question.
But the decision to privatize airports remains a real threat given the Trudeau government’s plans to press ahead with the federal Infrastructure Bank.
The proposed Infrastructure Bank isn’t about the much needed repairing and expanding of Canada’s roads, bridges and transit systems. It’s about offering a government-backed way for corporations to make money off of essential infrastructure.
As Toby Sanger points out in a new CCPA report, the Infrastructure Bank looks as if it will access higher cost financing from the private sector, as is the norm for public-private parternships (P3s).
As we already know, P3s are horribly efficient, draining government funds that could be directed elsewhere.
The Infrastructure Bank is no better. Sanger estimates that private financing will add $150 billion in financing costs over 30 years if the expected $140 billion in infrastructure investments are carried out. Unlike the Conservative government which wanted to encourage P3s, the Liberal look intent on actually using government resources to help organize them.
This is all nothing more but a sweet deal to help capital to invest at a time when corporate Canada is hoarding huge amounts of cash.
So far talk of airport privatization has not been warmly received by the CEOs of the airports and airlines. They rightly fear this will drive up costs discouraging people from flying.
That’s why a group like the Toronto Airport Workers’ Council (TAWC) will be important in this fight. They are already engaged in the Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign as well as a campaign to stop contract flipping at Pearson Airport.
Contract flipping consists of services being contracted out or awarded to a new contractor who promises a lower cost. This has caused Pearson workers to be laid off and then rehired at lower wages and benefits. If airports are privatized, there will be even more pressure to intensify this practice because it will offer a way of squeezing out more profits for an airport’s corporate owners.
But you can’t rely on the bosses to oppose neoliberal restructuring even if gives them short term concerns. It will be up to the workers to halt privatization, not management and CEOs.