By MPP Toby Barrett
Time has run out on 2014.
From a provincial political perspective, the past year can be nicely divided on either side of the June election.
And as we enter the new year, we still have the potential to get Ontario working again. We can weather a painful transition to a new, more prosperous economic and technological era. But we need a government that’s on side and with a plan to tackle major issues.
Politics does have a role to play and it lies in the real world of common sense tax policy, labour policy, energy policy and addressing the myriad of bureaucratic rules and regulation suffocating progress. Regrettably, our government in Ontario has become increasingly dysfunctional, self-serving and crushingly expensive.
Government is failing to fulfill its most basic obligations – emergency preparedness for example. A year has passed since the January ice storm left over 600,000 homes across the province in the dark leaving Ontarians to ask why they went days without power. Although Toronto was in the news last January, Haldimand-Norfolk had its fair share of snowstorms and power outages over the years. Locally, nearby friends, family and volunteers pitch in, often with snowmobiles and four-wheelers .Not all areas in Ontario are blessed with such expertise or community spirit.
Of note last January, the US Army Corps of Engineers Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study recommended eight alternatives to deal with the Chicago Shipping and Sanitary Canal. The fear is if Asian carp, which are currently in the Mississippi River system, invade the Great Lakes, it will decimate the multi-billion-dollar commercial and recreational fishery.
As last year’s very cold winter continued through February, my office received increasing inquiries as to why electricity has become so expensive.
After doubling the cost of electricity over 10 years, it was divulged we will see prices increase 40 per cent by 2018. While Ontario’s power sector has strong fundamentals, we see prices far in excess of inflation, while rates are falling in competing jurisdictions.
There’s nothing cheaper than coal and waterpower – but the coal plants were shuttered just before the hard winter. Out gigantic Nanticoke generating station, a billion-dollar asset that is the largest of its kind in North America, sits empty. Over-supply from wind and solar leads to spilling water over dams or wasting nuclear power, or selling electricity over the border at a loss.
During last spring’s legislative session, auto insurance continued as one of the big issues. Ontario has the most expensive insurance system in Canada due to over-regulation and massive fraud. To try and prevent an election, we saw a promise of a 15 per cent premium reduction.
With respect to Ontario’s economic and fiscal status as reflected in last May’s budget, and without trying to be melodramatic, I suggest our province is approaching an economic apocalypse. The four horsemen we presently face are debt, taxation, energy and red tape. And they are galloping in tandem as a four-horse hitch bound by a common harness of out-of-control spending and scandal.
Last June’s election will result in little effort to pull in the reins on wasteful spending as represented by debt, taxes, energy and red tape. The alternative for Ontario and our coming generations will not be pretty.