By MPP Toby Barrett
Most Ontario residents don’t support the Hydro One fire sale. Environics Research found 83 per cent of Ontarians oppose the sale, yet government is forging ahead.
In rural Ontario, virtually all residents are served by Hydro One. A resounding 166 municipalities, most of which are rural, have passed resolutions opposing the sale.
Thousands of Ontarians believe this proposed sale will raise electricity rates. As well, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce has said the Liberal government has not engaged the business community or addressed their concerns on the sale, and whether it will increase rates.
Ontario already has some of the highest electricity prices in North America. Rates are expected to increase another 42 per cent by 2018, and that’s before any further hike from the sale.
As Opposition Leader Patrick Brown revealed last week in the Legislature, the government is not being forthcoming on the real reason to sell Hydro One. He charges it is to cover the $4.2 billion wasted on the energy file. This includes:
· $83 million on Hydro One misbillings.
· $1.1 billion on the gas plant scandal.
· $1.1 billion exporting power in the last six months.
· $1.9 billion on smart meters.
The $4 million salary of the new CEO of Hydro One is yet another example of how out of touch this government has become as people struggle to pay their bills.
Hydro-Quebec is twice as large as Hydro One in terms of generation and the company has four times as many employees, but its CEO makes an eighth of what Ontario’s Hydro One is paying its chief executive officer.
The combined salaries of six hydro executives in four other provinces are still less than that of Ontario’s CEO. In British Columbia, the top three highest paid executives receive a combined salary of under $2 million per year – and electricity bills in British Columbia are half of what they are in Ontario.
“British Columbia’s Liberal government isn’t forcing seniors to choose between heating and eating,” Patrick Brown stated during debate. “Hydro One’s new multi-million-dollar executive salaries will have to be paid for through higher and higher hydro bills. Why is the Premier making life more and more unaffordable for the people of Ontario just so she can dish out lavish paycheques to Hydro One executives?”
And then there’s the issue of Hydro One having more employees on the Sunshine List of $100,000 earners than any other provincial organization.
No wonder government wants to sell Hydro One and get it out from under the Ombudsman’s watchful eye. But that raises the question of what’s next? People assume electricity prices will go up as the new owners seek profit.
There is a lot at stake. Rising electricity rates hinder businesses’ ability to compete with other jurisdictions causing them to close their doors or relocate. And, of course, rising electricity rates make it difficult for the families and seniors to pay the bills.
The question remains, what this government will do with the proceeds of the sale, supposedly slotted for public transit and debt?
All told, people tell us they have lost confidence in this government because of its mismanagement of the electricity file. Little wonder most feel selling Hydro One would not be a good decision.