Jobs, taxes and energy concerns carry through 2010

By MPP Toby Barrett

The second half of 2010 commenced with a bang – the Canada Day parades in Caledonia and Port Dover are two of 20 that I participated in this past year.

But also on July 1 people began seeing the eco-tax on thousands of items. And this on the heels of the HST. As we know July 20th added to the list of McGuinty about-faces with the cancellation of eco-taxes.

On Canada Day, Mr. McGuinty also announced that while approved solar will receive the old rate of 80.2 cents/kWh, future projects will be paid 58.8 cents/kWh. This back track was later changed to only include ground mounted units under the reduced rate.

The August meeting of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, saw Opposition Leader Tim Hudak reiterate our commitment to restore local decision-making powers stripped away from municipal representatives under the, Green Energy Act.

Last summer, Ontario’s unemployment rate hit a 16 year high – an issue that continued to come at the door as I continued outreach in Boston, Wilsonville, Bill’s Corners, Hagersville, Waterford, Bealton, Nixon, Bloomsburg, Canfield and York.

During fall debate, I had the opportunity to readdress the need to get to the bottom of the Caledonia debacle with Attorney General Critic Ted Chudleigh’s private member’s bill titled the Public Inquiry into Caledonia Act, 2010.

Also in the Legislature, I urged Premier Dalton McGuinty to pick up the phone and deal with Smucker’s decision to close its Dunnville facility and Delhi tank farm, and to also get a handle on the US Steel Hilton Works lockout.

Fall saw an opportunity for Nanticoke with the shelving of the gas-fired plant in Oakville. With the transmission lines already in place and local high-skilled electricity workers facing government imposed job cuts by 2014, the choice should be considered.

Concern about jobs, taxes and increasingly the price of electricity were apparent at fall fairs in Dunnville, Langton, Walsh, Caledonia, and Simcoe. Wind and solar issues predominated at the door in Fisherville, Selkirk, Jarvis, Decewsville, Nelles Corners, Rainham Centre, Sweets Corners, Kohler, Mount Olivet and South Cayuga.

Soon after the launch of Christie Blatchford’s book, Helpless. I asked Premier McGuinty if this book represents the final chapter on Caledonia – or if he would now consider calling an inquiry.

The hits kept on coming for Ontario taxpayers as Ontario Electronic Stewardship’s annual report indicated the program collected $44 million in eco-taxes while only achieving 2% of its recycling targets – we advocate these taxes be scrapped as well.

By the end of the year we learned from the Auditor General that – while government had promised 60 per cent waste diversion from landfill by 2008, we are still only at 24 per cent.

2010 ended with information that electricity rates have gone up 75 per cent on McGuinty’s watch and are projected to rise another 46 per cent over the next five years.

My hope is that 2011 delivers on the newly-released power plan for ‘consideration to repowering Lambton and Nanticoke units with natural gas’ as well as, ‘Continuing to explore opportunities for co-firing biomass’, and to ‘commence studies for of pipeline routes to supply Nanticoke with natural gas’.”

The coming year will bring its share of political battles. Perhaps we can all look forward to a brighter 2011.