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A tale of two privatizations

To the Editor,

Charles Dickens had his Tale of Two Cities. I have a tale of two privatizations which benefitted no one — except possibly the stock and bond traders.

In the last edition of the Times, Bill Sundhu mentioned Connaught labs. Here’s a brief history:

Established in 1914 in the University of Toronto to produce live rabies vaccines and horse antitoxins for diptheria. In 1922, when Frederick Banting and Charles Best came out with insulin, Connaught was there producing 95 per cent of Canada’s insulin. During World War II, Connaught prepared blood plasma and was one of the earliest to produce penicillin.

When Jonas Salk generously gave his polio vaccine to the world, Connaught enabled the ability for mass trials.

In 1981 when Mel Hartig’s Canadian Encyclopedia was printed, Connaught Laboratories was going “great guns.” Centered in Toronto with branches in Truro, N.S. and Pennsylvania, the future was bright as could be so what happened? Well, Brian Mulroney and privatize-this-that-and-the-other-nonsense happened.

Connaught was privatized, hived off and bought by a French company. Connaught simply disappeard.

The second privatization story — we’ll have to go half way around the world and ‘down under.’

At one time in the beginning of the internet, Australia was right on top, rated third or fourth in the world! Pretty good, eh? But the Australian company was public-owned. Oh no, the Feds have got our net honours! So this company, whose name has slipped my mind, was hived off and privatized (Editor’s note: The company is Telstra, Australia’s biggest telecom company, and was privatized in 1997).

There’s problem here like many other early communications systems it runs on copper wire. The copper wire is old and leaky. It has to be replaced by fibre optics.

The expense would be too much for the investors — Kevin Rudd (Editor’s note: Rudd was Australia’s 26th Prime Minister) had a scheme for an entirely different net system with modern fibre optics. But Rudd and his Labour government got shot down in flames.

So now Australians live with a net that is now rated 50th on the planet.

And we Canadians are at the mercy of Big Pharma. The same Big Pharma that the late John le Carre stated the crimes by Big Pharma are the best example of the saying the problem with the end of the Cold War, “The right side lost but the wrong side won.”

Dennis Peacock,

Clearwater, B.C.

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