A mixed blessing

Plans are afoot in the United States to privatize the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. 

Also, consideration is being given by both the United States and Canada to transfer the postal system from a government-run organization to a privately-run company.

Would these be worthwhile?

Many believe that by their very nature governments are inefficient, and that therefore, privatization is the remedy. This is not always the case. With air traffic controllers, it is hazardous to turn over operations to a private company, which could put profit considerations first, rather than safety.

Canada Post has been running large deficits, and many question its overall efficiency.

Some small sub-stations have been established, but the personnel there have been unsatisfactory.  Home delivery will be curtailed and probably will be less frequent.

In Europe, on the other hand, the post office is a privately-run organization. It operates competently and earns a profit.  It has been suggested that we should consider something similar here. Perhaps the threat of doing so would be sufficient to improve our postal system.

Now the Ontario government is planning to sell part of Hydro One, which then would become a private company. The proceeds of such a sale would be used to fund local transportation in areas such as Hamilton.]

Furthermore, Premier Kathleen Wynne claims that rates would still be controlled. Yet a private company could always argue that it needed rate relief to accommodate shareholders.

Still, low electricity rates provide benefits to industry throughout the province, whereas improved transportation offers benefits to only a small segment of the population.  Cheap electricity has been a guiding principle in the province’s economic development.

Previously rate regulation on Highway 407 was sold to a private company – which the government now regrets.

In the United Kingdom after the Second World War the Labour administration nationalized major segments of British industry and that entailed huge inefficiencies.

Do we want to emulate that? Are Communist China and the old Soviet Union organizations something we wish here?

The entrepreneurial spirit is lacking in the public sector. Transforming sectors of our economy to private hands in certain circumstances will prove to be beneficial, but all too frequently it would not be a good idea.

Let us not sell out our birthright.



Bruce Whitestone