Do you like my Christmas lights?
Oh Sorry. I live in Ontario and can’t afford to turn them on.
D’Amato: Hydro woes will finish Liberals
Dec 14, 2016 Waterloo Region Record By Luisa D’Amato
The sentence is written in white on an imposing inky-black background. It’s puzzling for a moment as you stop to ask yourself where the lights are.
But then you get it. At the bottom of the black square is the punchline: “Oh sorry, I live in Ontario and can’t afford to turn them on!”
What is it with fuel and the Liberals, anyway? The political career of former Premier Dalton McGuinty was dashed by his party’s decision five years ago to cancel planned natural-gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga, costing Ontarians more than a billion dollars.
Today, high electricity prices are doing the same thing to the political career of Premier Kathleen Wynne. Out-of-control prices have put a chokehold on small businesses, the engines of job creation. Moreover, some families are forced to use dangerous portable heaters because they don’t have access to their electricity. It’s a crisis.
Politicians in power devote a lot of time and energy toward pretending that nothing is wrong, when it really is. But when you watch televised newscast clips of Wynne (whose approval rating is now at the lowest of any premier in Canada, at 16 per cent), you can see how rattled she seems to be.
While it’s touching that she takes responsibility, the politicians don’t quite seem to understand the significance of what’s happening. In one videotaped interview I saw, Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault agreed it must be “disconcerting” to have the power cut off because you can’t pay.
Not exactly, minister. “Disconcerting” is when someone else beats you to those prized theatre seats in front row mezzanine. Not being able to pay your hydro bill is a whole different thing. It’s crushingly stressful. It’s soul-destroying.
The opposition gets it. Both the Conservatives and New Democrats regularly pound the Liberals on this topic in the Ontario Legislature. New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horwath was in Cambridge on Tuesday to meet with a woman who struggles to pay hydro bills.
Think about why costs are soaring and you encounter the fatal flaw of the 13-year-old Liberal government. It meant well. But there’s a big difference between having a grand visionary outlook and actually being able to manage something.
Give McGuinty credit for dreaming up the idea that we could put people back to work and help save the environment. He thought it would create jobs for Ontario to produce wind turbines and solar panels. As an incentive, the government offered lots of money to buy the power back. That’s part of what put prices up so high, so quickly.
There’s more. The difference between low market prices and the higher prices promised to these new producers of wind and sun energy is called the “global adjustment charge.” Between 2006 and 2015, we paid an unnecessary $50 billion subsidizing this vision, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk says.
That subsidy accounts for 70 per cent of consumers’ electricity rates in 2013. But the difference between the market price — what we would be paying if the Liberals had left well enough alone — and the global adjusted rate isn’t clear on our bills. Lysyk says it should be. The government, unsurprisingly, wants to leave it murky. Because obfuscation is all they’ve got left.