Electricity and the Liberals’ Hansard History: Chapter 2

The failure of the Harris-Eves government to include certain crown corporations in the commonly referred to; “Sunshine Act” caught the attention of the Liberal’s shortly after they attained power in Ontario and particularly because of the Clitheroe scandal that had occured in 2002 while she was the CEO of Hydro One. That led them to seek to amend the act to capture those institutions and grant the public the right to see what the salaries and perks were at those crown corporations. The following deals to some extent with the efforts to amend that Act along with the rhetoric that accompanies any amendments to an act or the introduction of a new act and is but one day when the Legislature sat in March of 2004.
 
Hansard from March 31, 2004 was a day filled with lots of chatter about OPG and Hydro One and the extension of Bill 15, the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act. The Bill would require the same salary disclosure for OPG and Hydro One as was required for all other public servants as well as making them subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
 
That the Liberals would only one year later, create the Ontario Power Authority which would sign “undisclosed” generation contracts with dozens of wind turbine developers including Samsung flies in the face of their need to have OPG and Hydro One made subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The other issue mentioned frequently by the Liberal speakers on this day referred to the prior sitting government of Ernie Eves and his freezing of the electricity rates which reputedly cost the Ontario taxpayers $850 million. To put that in perspective the Samsung contract alone will cost the ratepayers in the Province in excess of $1 billion for each of the next 20 years.
 
The support for Bill 15 from some of the sitting Liberal members was absolutely bubbly as noted below. The following from Liberal MPP, Donna Cansfield (now Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Economic Development, Brad Duguid) is particularly “holier then thou”;
 

On paper, Hydro One and OPG have only one shareholder, the province of Ontario. In fact, there are about 12,112,000 shareholders, the total population of our province. These 12 million shareholders will find it much more difficult than other shareholders to understand what is happening at Hydro One and Ontario Power Generation because they don’t receive annual reports and, of course, they don’t attend stockholder meetings. They must rely on us, members of Parliament, the government, as their only proxy to keep close watch on these companies and to protect their interests, the interests of Ontarians, these 12,112,000 people. Doesn’t this give us a much more onerous task than the directors of any other public company? Of course it does. Are we not more responsible for surveillance, not less? Is it not more important then that all of us in government have an absolute duty to be more resolute, more demanding and more ethical than any other shareholder or director?” and this;

We will make certain that some of the money we will force Hydro One and Ontario Power Generation to spend more wisely will go to initiatives that include aggressive conservation, new and greener sources of supply and an accountability to help us meet our objectives of cleaner air, consumer protection and a sustainable supply of electricity for generations to come.” and this;

This bill is an important and integral part of the stand of the Liberal government. It means we’ll be able to take the dollars and apply them to health, education, our seniors and long-term care. It will make a difference in terms of the compensation that will come. It will make a difference in terms of what will happen in the future for the children in this province.

 
MPP Donna Cansfield in the recent run to retain her seat was quite delighted to support the cancellation of the Mississauga gas plant and was quoted as follows; “I’m delighted that the Ontario Liberals will put more rigour into site selection to protect homes, schools and hospitals,” said Cansfield. “I’m also delighted that the views of our community have been listened to.” One has to wonder how this cancellation, the product of Dwight Duncan’s original directive (which is blanked out [see Chapter 3 about the McGuinty “open electricity policy] but presumably included the Mississauga contract and others) and it’s costs will affect the dollars for “health, education, our seniors and long-term” care. It would appear that MPP Cansfield was willing to claw back those dollars for health, education, seniors and long-term care in order to save a couple of Liberal seats in the most recent election.
 
The Minister of Energy in 2004 was Dwight Duncan and he had this to say that day in the Legislature: The member is quite right: We introduced Bill 4, which will erase the $850-million charge to the provincial government that your failed energy policy put on the people of Ontario. My colleague the Minister of Municipal Affairs had the rent bank announcement, and my colleague the Minister of Community and Social Services has $2 million to help those low-income families. We expect that bills for the average consumer will go up by about 4% to 5%.
 
That forecast of a a 4% to 5% increase in the average electricity bill 7 years later has resulted in the “average consumer” paying over 100% more and the recent Minister of Energy, Brad Duguid has told us to expect another 46% increase by 2015. And Duncan is now the Minister of Finance! One of MPP Duguid’s predecessors in the Energy chair was George Smitherman who when presenting the Green Energy Act (Act) to Parliament in early 2009 was quoted as saying that the average electricity bill would rise by 1% per year. Forecasts don’t seem to be a strong suit of our Liberal Energy Ministers.
 
Another Liberal David Ramsay (Minister of Natural Resources) had this to say on that day in March 2004: “In January of this year my colleague Dwight Duncan, the Minister of Energy, announced our intention to seek up to 300 megawatts of new renewable energy capacity as soon as possible. One of the components of meeting that goal is wind power. The wind turbine, for example, at Exhibition Place can produce enough electricity each year to light 250 homes. Since it produces no pollution, it displaces up to 380 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. This is a proven technology that works, and they will increase our supply of renewable energy.
 
That wind turbine that Minister Ramsay touted produces less then half of the energy required to power those 250 homes and has cost the ratepayers of Toronto an as yet undisclosed amount of money through the partial acquisition of it by Toronto Hydro. It may have also cost the co-op members but questions asked of Toronto Hydro, the City of Toronto and the Co-op on several occasions have gone unanswered-in fact all three parties have ignored requests for information. Will MPP Cansfield speak up about how her Liberal party has met the test of her remarks in the Legislature: “government have an absolute duty to be more resolute, more demanding and more ethical than any other shareholder or director?” Somehow I doubt that!
 
Forecasts and the ethics of disclosure would not seem to be a strong suit of the governing Liberals so we should be concerned that the most recent 46% forecast will be greatly exceeded in order to reward Samsung and others connected with the renewable energy sector.
 
Parker Gallant,
December 4, 2011
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