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Electricity plan a transparent ploy on Wynne’s part

The numbers don’t add up, but Kathleen Wynne hopes nobody notices. Well, maybe the part where their electricity bills go down … temporarily.

In attempting to hit the reset button on her much-reviled government, Wynne included in this week’s Throne Speech provisions to cut the HST from hydro bills. Well, the provincial portion of the HST. Well, not really, but a subsidy equivalent to the eight per cent portion.  (We’re to ignore the fact the $1 billion in lost tax revenues – taxes should never been applied to utilities in the first place – makes even less likely Wynne’s dubious claim of a balanced budget.)

The move is expected to save the average customer about $130 a year. Well, maybe. Rates are still skyrocketing by about eight per cent per year, so it won’t be long before the already exorbitant bills climb back to where they were before the HST rebate. Throw in the province’s new poorly devised carbon tax (aka cap and trade), which is expected to bring an average hit of $156 per year, and Ontarians will immediately be poorer than they are today when it comes to paying for energy.

Confused? You’re not alone. But Wynne hopes that in muddying the waters, Ontarians will be confused enough to overlook her record of incompetence to vote for her again in 2018. Your vote is worth a temporary $130, apparently.

By the next election, electricity rates are likely to have climbed even higher thanks to Wynne selling off an important public asset in Hydro One for a short-term cash injection designed to help with a fake balanced budget in time for Ontarians to go to the polls. The selloff of a major piece will likely bring in only a few billion dollars – already wasted by Wynne – while driving up rates and removing from public control an essential piece of infrastructure. But a few well-connected bankers and brokers have made out like bandits, conveniently stocking Liberal coffers prior to any reform of election finance rules.

This week’s announcement cements the fact Wynne has zero credibility on the energy file.

When first elected, the Liberal strategy held some promise. The decision to phase out coal-fired generating plants, while of no practical value on a global or even regional scale, was an attainable goal with some benefits, mostly symbolic. The Green Energy Act gave a boost to alternatives such as wind and solar power, but it quickly became apparent the province was being far too generous, paying providers unsustainable rates well above market value. Even as the province became so awash in electricity that it was exporting it at a loss, Wynne’s government continues to press ahead with bringing new supplies online.

Yes, Ontarians had for years underpaid for electricity, the massive boondoggles and price overruns for nuclear power and a host of other errors (see, particularly, overly generous employee compensation) being subsidized from general tax revenues. That had to change, but the Liberals chose poorly and then fiscally mismanaged the system beyond even what the most jaded of watchers expect of government.

This week’s plan for the HST subsidies do nothing to address the underlying problems with Ontario’s electricity system, the origin of which can’t all be laid at Wynne’s feet. Just most of them. And her government has made every problem worse with poor policy decisions aimed at providing benefits only to themselves and their financial backers, not the public.

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