CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn kicked off Convention on Wednesday morning with an electrifying speech that pledged to defend public services and public employees from the austerity agenda, and protect Ontario’s public power from privatization.

“The hydro grid is there because our parents and grandparents bought and paid for it with their taxes. It belongs to all of us,” Hahn told the thousand delegates who packed the Sheraton Centre to hear his speech.

In just a few short weeks, we’ve brought together the Keep Hydro Public Coalition, and are working closely with Andrea Horwath and the NDP to hold Premier Kathleen Wynne and Liberal government to account, he added.

A huge and growing majority of Ontarians oppose the sale, which will end public ownership, oversight and accountability. It will also cost us hundreds of millions in lost revenues and drive up hydro rates. Higher rates will be a direct hit on operating budgets for the services we provide, meaning more layoffs and service cuts in every sector.

We must mobilize across Ontario to fight this sale, as we mobilized in record numbers during the provincial and municipal elections. The strength of our movement was proven in Alberta, where labour helped elect an NDP government.

“If the NDP can be elected to a majority after forty years of Conservatives, running on a progressive platform of raising corporate taxes and rolling back cuts in education, anything is possible,” he said, adding, “We are one election away from an enhanced Canada Pension Plan, from corporations paying their fair share in taxes, from a national child care system, the list goes on and on.”

Brother Hahn also paid tribute to municipal workers and university workers were on picket lines in the past year and striking City of London employees who began a strike last week to defend their collective agreements.