Bluffs Advocate

Public Service

The Public Option Works Best for Scarborough

Ensure that quality public services aren't sold off to private operators looking to make a quick and easy buck from taxpayers

By Kevin Wilson

            Across the city, summer is becoming a distant memory. The cottages have been packed up for the season, the kids are heading back to classes and the city resumes its normal nine-to-five rhythms.

Whether it's on Bay Street or McCowan, Queen's Park Crescent or East Pointe Park, we're putting the hazy days of summer behind us and getting back to the grindstone—putting in an honest day's work for an honest day's pay.

And as sure as falling leaves in September follow backyard barbecues in August, Scarborough can expect lots of talk this fall about how best to dispose of your garbage, recycling and organic waste.

There's a good reason for this—hauling solid waste is big business for a number of very wealthy multinational companies.

But some things are too important to leave in the hands of private business, which is why it's so important for the City of Toronto to keep solid waste disposal, along with recycling and organic waste, in public hands.

East of Yonge Street, garbage, recycling and organics are collected by City of Toronto employees. Direct control of the service ensures that the service is directly accountable to residents. If a problem arises, a resident can simply contact 311, or their local councillor to identify the problem and seek a solution.

When services like solid waste are privatized, those clear lines of accountability become murkier.

As well, maintaining direct public control of services like solid waste means the service can adapt quickly to deal with unexpected issues that arise. When the City of Toronto was hit by a massive ice storm, city employees handled virtually all the clean-up effort.

Why? For starters, private contractors who handle solid waste on the west side of the city demanded hefty premiums to do the extra work. Fortunately, the city's own workers were able to quickly swing into action and handle the extra work on the east side of the city, as well as the west side. In the end, the clean-up was completed, and residents weren't gouged by private companies seeking to profit off of a natural disaster.

Even more importantly, keeping services like solid waste in public hands ensures that good jobs stay in communities like Scarborough. The main way that private sector operators earn profits is by cutting corners wherever possible—and the biggest corner to cut are employee wages and benefits.

When that happens, money that workers would ensure stays in their community instead gets funnelled out of the community and into the bank accounts of executives and shareholders.

Summer is almost over. Hopefully, everyone can squeeze out the last few drops of glorious weather, family, friends and fellowship. But as summer fades out and the curtain rises on autumn, take a moment to think about the importance of ensuring that quality public services aren't sold off to private operators looking to make a quick and easy buck from taxpayers, and that good jobs that support families and communities stay in the community.