Sunday, September 4, 2016

For The People? Early state ownership in Ontario

October 11 1910: Ontario Hydro power is switched on for Berlin (Kitchener) 

The "Laurier Boom" spanning the late 1890s to the immediate pre-war years was the onset of municipal ownership of utilities (telephone, water, gas, streetcars, electricity). In this period, Ontario also took enormous first steps towards state ownership of industry, most famously with the 1906 creation of Ontario Hydro, but also with the formation of what we now know as Ontario Northland in 1902.

Both the political left and right often portray state ownership as a form of socialism. What is striking about this early period of municipal and state ownership of utilities and infrastructure is the degree of clarity with which Ontario's political elites rejected the claim that state ownership was socialism.