Joint Union Statement - Trudeau government must pause heating plant privatization and answer key questions

The leaders of 4 national unions, representing more than 1.2 million workers, are demanding that the Trudeau government step back from the imminent privatization of federal centralized heating and cooling plants in the National Capital Region, and stop stonewalling requests for information on this potentially reckless change to critical infrastructure.

Workers and clients in the buildings served by these plants have a right to know that their concerns about safety and security are being heard and are being addressed. 

Ottawa and Gatineau residents have a right to know that their infrastructure, including critical water systems, and the Ottawa River, are being protected from the possibility of a spill of water from the plants – water that is treated with known carcinogens. 

All Canadians have a right to know that the government is not wasting money on this privatized project, when keeping it public could provide better service at a lower cost. 

On October 2, 2018, we wrote to Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, who has been the government spokesperson for this project. We respectfully requested that she halt the project, meet with the workers who know the system to learn from them, address their concerns, and move forward with a plan to improve the system without privatization. Our letter was not answered. 

Over the past eight months, we have continued to push the government, through meetings, emails, public events, and Access to Information requests, to answer straightforward but important questions about the business plan, the environmental assessment and the risk mitigation plans for this project. The few answers that we have received have been redacted, inconsistent, at times contradictory, and wholly unsatisfactory. This government prides itself on openness and transparency, and yet this project is best described as opaque. 

Workers in the plants, members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, have been told the preferred proponent will be revealed soon, and that they will be required to train the people who will be taking over their jobs. On top of the stonewalling and secrecy, asking a worker to train his or her replacement is nothing short of offensive. Public sector workers deserve better from their employer. 

With the health of workers and residents at stake, and with sums as large as $3 billion involved, it’s vital that the government pause the project and answer our key questions. 

Chris Aylward, National President, PSAC-AFPC

Dany Richard, President and Chair of the Board of Directors, ACFO-ACAF

Mark Hancock, National President, CUPE-SCFP

Larry Brown, National President, NUPGE


May 28, 2019