A look back at Ontario Liberal promises: the true cost of bungling

Former Premier Dalton McGuinty: The Liberal promises of affordable electricity and politics-free policy were discarded [Photo: Huffington Post]
A Globe and Mail article of November 11, 2002 reported that Dalton McGuinty, leader of the Ontario Liberal Party (OLP), then in Opposition, was upset because Premier Ernie Eves had promised legislation to cap electricity prices.

Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty said the true cost of the Conservative government’s hydro bungling will add billions of dollars to the debt.

“Now that families and businesses have been scared to death, now that new investment in supply has been scared off, now that everyone knows hydro has been completely mismanaged, Ernie Eves is going back to square one,” Mr. McGuinty said in a news release on Monday.

“The government should have had its act together before the market opened. And the bill for its failure to do that hasn’t been cancelled — it’s just been put off.”

Mr. McGuinty said the Ontario Liberals have been calling for action for months, but the Eves government has not acted until now to freeze electricity prices and increase supply.

The Liberal Leader said his real concern is what Ontarians will have to pay over the long term.

Fast forward to September 14, 2005 when Dalton McGuinty was Ontario’s Premier. In a keynote speech to the Ontario Energy Association, he bragged about what the OLP had accomplished and their plans for the future. Let’s examine the promises made in that speech.

McGuinty: “We won’t gamble away Ontario’s future prosperity because of what the next poll might or might not say...”

A noble thought, but discarded by the OLP. When seeking re-election in 2011 McGuinty cancelled the Mississauga and Oakville gas plants and plans to contract for offshore wind developments.  Polling in ridings affected by the foregoing showed several Liberal seats in jeopardy.   More recently, shortly after a poll indicated Premier Wynne’s approval rating was at 20 %, she announced hydro rates would be cut by 25 %.  Policy by polls…

McGuinty: … Or because of what new technology might or might not be developed.

The launch of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEA) in 2009 focused on wind and solar generation at above market prices, without a cost/benefit study as pointed out by the Ontario Auditor General in his December 5, 2011 report.  Both wind and solar were old technologies promoted by ENGO and wind and solar associations and known to be intermittent and unreliable sources of generation.

McGuinty: That’s why we asked the OPA to report on a long-term plan.

The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) produced a viable plan with limited wind and solar capacity to be contracted for in a competitive environment, but the plan was suspended by Energy and Infrastructure Minister George Smitherman before approval via his directive to the OPA dated September 17, 2008.

McGuinty: That’s why we acted to take the politics out of pricing.

The recent Fair Hydro Act and the gas plant moves dispel the notion that politics has been removed from pricing, as do the FIT and MicroFIT programs that past Minister Smitherman enabled via a directive issued September 24, 2009 to the OPA which included a domestic content requirement.  The latter resulted in a challenge before the World Trade Organization which Canada lost and taxpayers picked up the costs.

McGuinty: This spring, the Ontario Energy Board, a truly arms-length public agency will set the price of power for small consumers. The OEB sets the price based on what electricity costs, not on what politicians think it should cost, or wish it would cost.

While those homilies are correct, the prices are set based on input costs which the OEB has no control over. In simple terms, they divide the input costs accumulated (Global Adjustment + Hourly Ontario Electricity Price + transmission) and divide it by kilowatt hours consumed.  The impact of above market (highlighted by the Auditor General reports) contracts with wind, solar, and other generators and the plethora of other spending (e.g., conservation $400 million per year, etc.) dictated by the Energy Minister, plus above market salaries and benefits for OPG and Hydro One employees etc., are all part of those costs.

McGuinty: We could require our businesses and families to subsidize the price of electricity through their taxes.

Premier McGuinty did just that when he moved the gas plants and part of the cost was paid by taxpayers. The Liberal government also drove up the price of hydro and put 600,000 household into energy poverty. It fell on charities, supported by Ontario taxpayers, to help those households.  Tax dollars from those households also supplied grants to buyers of expensive Tesla automobiles and those grants continue today!

McGuinty: But, having finally put our province on a sound financial footing, we choose to ensure the price of electricity reflects the true cost of electricity.

The “sound financial footing” didn’t last long, and during the Liberals’ reign Ontario’s debt has increased from $132 billion to over $300 billion. Ontario has seen only one budget in the last decade that will seemingly balance and that was the most recent one.

McGuinty: We can’t guarantee price certainty –; that just isn’t realistic, given the nature of the challenges before us.

The Fair Hydro Act just passed by the Wynne government guarantees price certainty for four years for certain classes of ratepayers.  This isn’t realistic: refinancing those assets may conflict with their ability to continue to generate electricity for an additional ten years.  Amortization of fixed assets is based on the longevity of those assets, but the Wynne government has decreed that they can extend their life so that our children will be stuck with the replacement costs.

McGuinty: But I can assure you that we will do everything we can to ensure safe, clean, affordable electricity is always in full supply in the Province of Ontario.

When the OLP became the government, the average price of a kilowatt hour was 4.3 cents. By 2016 it averaged 11.2 cents — a 160% increase.  The 25% reduction touted by Premier Wynne as the largest in Ontario’s history followed.  The subsidy to cover that 25% will accumulate within the confines of OPG and at the end of increases held to “the rate of inflation for the next four years,” that subsidy will rise well above that benchmark in the years following that moratorium.

McGuinty: We won’t subsidize prices or cap prices –; that would mean more debt or higher deficits. Both of which would lead ultimately to higher taxes.

By deferring debt to subsidize hydro prices for four years within OPG’s balance sheet (guaranteed by the Province), the plan is to hide (temporarily) the impact from ratepayers while supposedly balancing the budget.

So, what happened to all those lofty promises of “affordable” electricity costs for consumers and business, that is immune to politics?

Was this what all those promises really meant?

“The true cost of the Liberal government’s hydro bungling will add tens of billions of dollars to the debt.

Parker Gallant

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6 thoughts on “A look back at Ontario Liberal promises: the true cost of bungling”

  1. Well done Parker…. hopefully the media outlets will cover this story and Ontarions will wake up…. the light at the end of the tunnel is not salvation… it’s a giant fricken freight train coming to run you over!!!!

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  2. Yes, thank you Parker.
    When one considers the bungling that the MOECC has done regarding noise and the protection of aquifers,from industrial wind turbines, and the Ministry of Health’s failure to enforce the Radiation Emitting Devices Act, the additional legal costs for the harm the turbines have caused and the loss of property values will make this situation even worse.

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  3. Wow Sommer….. that last one was very upsetting…. again totally justifiable in the court of law to protect and ensure our natural resources as important as….. water…. is to be protected at all costs… and I mean at all costs!!!

    Like

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