The ink wasn’t even dry on Ontario government plans to clear the way for partisan and wasteful self-congratulatory advertising when the auditor general’s warnings were echoed by her fellow independent officers taking aim at diminishing oversight capacity.
Most egregious of the Wynne government’s list of recent miscues, missteps and mistakes – a long list, to be sure – is the plan to sell off Hydro One to the detriment of the public.
In an open letter last week, the eight independent officers recommended against the sell-out. The list includes Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk, Integrity Commissioner Lynn Morrison, Ombudsman André Marin and Financial Accountability Officer Stephen LeClair. They believe the government’s proposals in Bill 91, the so-called Building Ontario Up Act, will reduce the scope of the reviews that can be conducted on behalf of the people of the province.
Clearly a move to offset the government’s financial mismanagement, profligate spending and desire to route yet more money from useful public good into the pockets of supporters and public sector unions – a.k.a. the re-election strategy – the sale has been panned widely.
The move would be the latest bit of incompetence on the energy file, with much wider negative implications for Ontario’s financial future.
The critics have it right: Ontarians have no faith the government will manage the energy file well, as the ball has been dropped too many times even without the blatant rip-off of the gas plants fiasco.
Yes, the Liberals’ latest adaptation of their energy plan continues to support renewables. That makes sense, even if the overly optimistic roll-out failed on many fronts. There are plenty of upsides to moving away from coal, for instance, though decreased demand and increased efficiency have done more to help than has bringing online solar, wind and biomass projects.
The ever-rising prices are a big problem, and one that’s here to stay. Off-peak electricity costs have spiked 40 per cent over the last four years, and bills have doubled since the Liberals took office. Ontario families and businesses are paying some of the highest electricity rates in the country. A homeowner in Manitoba or Quebec has a hydro bill that is literally half the price an Ontario family would pay for the same amount of power.
That’s the crux of much of the criticism, but not the only issue at play. The public isn’t convinced we’re getting good value for the policy decisions.
From rural residents fighting against wind farms to the overly-generous rates paid to providers of renewable power, the Green Energy Act has been a public relations nightmare from the start. From the get-go its projects were associated with rising prices, though initially the impact was minimal. That’s changing as more projects come online, making green energy even more problematic in some quarters for a government intent on following that path.
Then there’s the nuclear issue. Supporters point to the steady supply of emission-free power. Critics point out the inherent risks, especially in the waste, and the massive cost overruns.
Wynne has neither the mandate nor the integrity to pull off such a massive change to the system. Ontarians don’t trust her to do what’s right.
On that, the record is clear. The deal must be halted, as with less oversight will come more abuse. And it’s you who’ll be abused.