Liberals’ hydro shell game is an expensive band-aid

Originally published March 9, 2017.

The hydro plan Premier Wynne announced last week is the most expensive band aid in Ontario’s history.

To stop the Liberal’s bleeding poll numbers, the Premier is going to borrow $14 billion dollars over the next decade. She says her baind aid will reduce electricity prices by 17%. This is on top of the $1 billion per year her HST cut on hydro bills will cost.

That’s a $24,000,000,000 dollar band aid, costing each household about $5,000.

The Premier has said nothing about what programs will be cut to pay for her band aid.

$14 billion in interest payments may be good for bankers, but not for you and me.

When I think about where I want my tax dollars to go, big banks aren’t on my list.

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$1.4 billion per year would pay for 20,000 nurses in Ontario. It could save some of the 11 schools slated to close in Ottawa and dozens more around the province. It would go a long way to improving regional transit links. It could build hospitals, protect our water; the list goes on.

“These shell games have cost billions. None of them have worked.”

This is what happens when politicians mess up the hydro file and become desperate to buy votes. You end up paying big time.

Don’t get me wrong. We have a real affordability crisis on our hands. No one should have to choose between food and heat.

But I think you deserve more than a band aid. You deserve permanent, long term solutions so we can put that $14 billion into public services, instead of banks.

Here’s the thing — we do have better options! But first the government needs to stop repeating the mistakes of the past.

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In 2002, Ernie Eves froze electricity rates. Debt went up and cost us billions.

In 2011, Dalton McGuinty moved two gas plants and we paid $1.1 billion. Then he added another subsidy that had us borrowing $1.1 billion a year.

Now Wynne’s 25% rebate is just the latest in a long line of shell games on hydro. 

These shell games have cost billions. None of them have worked.

“Right now our provincial electricity surplus means Ontario has to sell excess power at a loss. If we need additional power, Quebec water power is much less expensive.”

We should be looking at how we can provide relief to those who desperately need it now, and also save in the long run. Here’s a plan on how we can get there:

First stop: target programs to provide rate reductions for people who need it the most. Electricity rate increases are unaffordable for people with low/fixed incomes. The increases are punishing anyone on electric baseboard heating.

Across the board cuts like those supported by the NDP and Liberals are tax cuts for the rich. Wealthy homes use more energy and benefit the most by these programs. Instead, it is more financially responsible and effective to target price cuts for those in need. This can best be achieved by putting more money into programs like the Ontario Electricity Support Program.

2. Next, tackle the expensive elephant in the room: nuclear.

The Premier must say no to the nuclear lobby. No nuclear project has delivered on time or budget.

Increases in the Global Adjustment (GA) are driving up electricity prices. 46% of the increase in the GA is due to nuclear power. Two companies operate nuclear plants in our province: privately owned Bruce Power and publicly owned Ontario Power Generation (OPG). Between 2002 and 2016, their rates rose by 54% and 60%.

And now OPG is asking for a massive price increase over the next decade to finance the Darlington Nuclear plant rebuild.

Instead of pouring billions more into nuclear power, let’s close Pickering Nuclear on time in 2018. This will save us money by reducing Ontario’s electricity surplus. Right now our provincial electricity surplus means Ontario has to sell excess power at a loss. If we need additional power, Quebec water power is much less expensive.

3. Help people and businesses save money by saving energy. Energy efficiency and conservation are the lowest cost energy solutions.

We will all save money now and forever by figuring out how to use less energy to power our businesses and homes.

A Green Building fund will help us do this and create thousands of jobs. We can finance this fund with the billions in savings from cancelling the planned nuclear rebuilds.

4. Stop the privatization of Hydro One.

This will prevent financial losses to Ontario’s treasury and prevent future electricity price increases. Selling off Hydro One puts the Liberal’s short-term desperate economic and political needs ahead of good public policy.

The Liberal’s expensive hydro band aid won’t build an efficient electricity system. It won’t reduce costs in the system. And it will cost all of us billions.

We deserve better in Ontario. We need honest solutions based on good public policy to get out of this hydro mess.

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Original Article at Huffington Post