Restore rational decision-making to Ontario’s electricity sector

By MPP Toby Barrett

Last week marked another raucous chapter of legislative debate and questions about the high cost of electricity – culminating in government and third-party members joining forces, yet again, to vote down our Opposition proposals to deal with the problem.

My plea, during one of a record 14 questions asked about electricity on Oct. 25th, was, “When will the Premier restore basic economics – matching supply and demand, for example –and restore rational decision-making to Ontario’s electricity sector?”

My question was in reference to our Opposition proposal to stop selling surplus energy at a loss. Since 2009, Ontario ratepayers have paid almost $6 billion to cover the cost of shipping electricity to customers outside the province. The year 2009 was when the Liberals and NDP joined forces to pass the infamous Green Energy Act.

Ontario’s Auditor General stated that renewable power has cost $9.2 billion more than it should have. During the Oct. 25 Question Period I also referred to a second Opposition concern, “When will the Premier stop signing energy contracts we don’t need?” This was in reference to previously-approved contracts are still going ahead even though the province doesn’t need the electricity.

Our third policy position on electricity was reiterated last week – we will stop the further sale of Hydro One. This was the number one complaint leading up to the last provincial budget. However, the government is forging ahead with the sale.

And number four, we will return power to municipal governments to make decisions about wind turbines — something the Green Energy Act removed. One cannot help but notice the unsightly industrial wind turbines across rural Ontario. There is wide spread opposition from many, but not all, rural residents. The Local Municipality Democracy Act – a Private Member’s Bill put forward by my colleague MPP Todd Smith — would return this control over energy projects stripped when the Green Energy Act became law.

As Opposition we can talk about what we would do differently if we were in government, but we also know we need to fight today for better policy from the present government. The well-being and livelihoods of thousands of people are on the line, and in many cases, 18 more months of destructive energy policies will tip the scale.

What we don’t need are short-term solutions. What we don’t want to see is the spending of $12 million on high-priced consultants and millions more on self-congratulatory radio ads. What we don’t want to see is this government continuing to pay the CEO of Hydro One $4 million annually, which is the highest salary for an electrical utility CEO in the country.

The Green Energy Act, which was wholeheartedly supported by the NDP when the Liberals introduced it, has turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. The Green Energy Act hiked the global adjustment, which is essentially the difference between the wholesale price of electricity and the price we’re forced to pay due to the contracts we’re obligated to honour.  The wholesale price of electricity has actually dropped, but because Ontario signed contracts at inflated prices, the global adjustment and our cost, continue to soar.

It is clear something needs to be done to challenge the high cost of hydro, to alter the path that Ontario is on – hence the proposals we made to the Legislature last week.