It’s clear to all but the most myopic that the Wynne government has completely mismanaged Ontario’s electricity system. Facing growing public anger – and an election next year – Wynne has been making increasingly panicked moves to appease voters.
Last year’s eight per cent reduction – equivalent to the provincial portion of the ill-considered sales tax on electricity bills – the government went into full desperation mode in the summer, cutting 25 per cent from bills by way massive borrowing costs – putting off today’s pain for a much bigger one tomorrow. After the election, all a coincidence, of course.
Then there’s the mindboggling sell-off of Hydro One, injecting a minor amount of short-term infrastructure money at the permanent expense of the public good.
The moves are expected to add at least $40 billion in extra costs to ratepayers in the province.
Altogether, it’s one bad idea after another. All at the public’s expense. Now, we can add $5.5 million into the mix, the cost of an ad campaign cooked up by Wynne to sell us on her schemes.
That revelation comes courtesy of the freedom of information request filed by the Ontario NDP – not a word from the government otherwise, naturally. The documents also reveal Wynne’s mindset in claiming that the advertising is needed to combat “negative media coverage of rising electricity bills.”
The truth hurts. More specifically, the truth about Wynne’s incompetence hurts the one thing she cares about: re-election.
“$5.5 million is an eye-popping number, especially when the Financial Accountability Officer has said this Liberal scheme is going to do more harm than good in the long run when it comes to families’ hydro bills,” said NDP leader Andrea Horwath in response to the FOI findings. “Why doesn’t the premier take that money and actually use it to help all those who are struggling to pay their hydro bills every month?”
While the pay-me-later moves began lowering bills earlier this year, along with a promise to cap years of massive increases at something like the inflation rate, Ontarians have every right to be skeptical about both the outcome and the motivation (hint, it’s not your wallet Wynne is concerned about, but your vote).
This week’s findings cement the fact Wynne has zero credibility on the energy file.
When first elected, the Liberal strategy held some promise, including giving a boost to alternatives such as wind and solar power, but it quickly became apparent the province was being far too generous.
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.
All of Wynne’s desperate moves do nothing address the underlying problems with Ontario’s electricity system, the origin of which can’t all be laid at her 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.