Hiding hydro costs and kicking them down the road

By MPP Toby Barrett

 Recently I received a copy of a Caledonia electricity bill and, to compare, a Hydro Quebec bill for a similar house. Even after Premier Wynne’s touted lowering of rates, the Hydro Quebec bill was half the cost – a bill for a family that heat and cook with electricity!

There is not enough space in this column to begin to describe the mismanagement, the bad contracts; the political motivation that has made Ontario the laughing stock of electricity policy in North America. For example, the CEO of Hydro Quebec makes one-tenth the $4.8 million plus salary of the Ontario CEO of Hydro One.

As for that heavily-advertised rate reduction – the television ads alone cost the people of Ontario $5.5 million – if the present government truly wanted to lower our electricity rates, those in charge would lower costs. They haven’t!

Instead, government is borrowing money to subsidize today’s bills – essentially pretending to bring in a 25 per cent reduction without cutting the costs – and kicking the cost to be paid down the road.

Last month, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk revealed the Wynne Liberals hid the true cost of this unfair hydro plan. Thanks to dubious accounting, Ontarians will be on the hook for $4 billion more than necessary as part of this hydro cover-up. The extra $4 billion will be a result of shifting this borrowing over to Ontario Power Generation, a Crown corporation that has to pay a higher interest rate than does the Ontario government.

It was two years ago, the Auditor General said that ratepayers had already forked out $37 billion more than necessary and will pay a whopping $133 billion by 2032. And now, according to Ontario’s Financial Accountability Officer, the latest borrowing will cost anywhere between $45 and $93 billion.


With the Auditor General’s explosive report last month, the government has taken it to a new low. Lysyk concluded that senior officials ignored the government’s own policy for preparing financial statements. As, she said, “In essence, the government is making up its own accounting rules.”


Through the Fair Hydro Act, government has created a needlessly complex accounting and financing structure for the electricity rate reduction in order to hide the deficit or increase in debt.


Last May, Ontario’s Auditor General warned this practice would be unacceptable and would set a dangerous precedent, “This legislated accounting is not in accordance with Canadian public-sector accounting standards. These standards are there to ensure the financial reporting of government policy decisions reflects common sense: borrowings are debt; unearned revenue is not an asset today; and when your expenses exceed your revenues, you incur a deficit.”


As she said, this “would be unacceptable in the private sector, and we maintain that this is also unacceptable in the public sector.”


It’s difficult to comprehend why government could be so insensitive to the plight of families who choose between paying their hydro bill, or putting food on the table. After 14 years, they’ve lost the ability to distinguish between the public interest and their own interest. And they’ve failed miserably to get electricity costs under control.


In case this isn’t enough, a leaked Liberal cabinet document shows hydro rates will rise to the highest levels we’ve ever seen in Ontario history after the next election.