The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO), Dianne Saxe, released what appears to be her final “independent”* report on March 27, 2019 — it was full of hyperbole! A CTV article issued after her news conference at Queens Park about the report carried this quote from her: “If the world can’t hold together on the Paris Agreement we are toasted, roasted and grilled.”
The Saxe quote immediately reminded me of a very humourous Beyond the Fringe video from 1961 titled “The End of the World”. The cast: Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett are seated, huddled, on the top of a mountain waiting for The End of the World. Needless to say, the “End of the World” didn’t arrive so they agreed to meet “the same time tomorrow” in case it did.
End-of-the-world claims are common these days, it seems: in 2009, Al Gore claimed the Polar Ice Cap would be entirely melted in five to seven years. Turns out to be another wrong prediction, but the humour was missing, much as it is missing from the ECO’s remarks to the media and in her report.
Ms. Saxe’s lead in to the report is titled “FOSSIL FUEL CONSERVATION WOULD FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE WHILE SAVING ONTARIANS BILLIONS” and the report itself is titled: “A Healthy, Happy, Prosperous Ontario 2019 Energy Conservation Progress Report, Why we need more energy conservation”.
We heard very many similar stories in the past about how Ontarians could “save billions!“
If one looks back to an article from October 29, 2004 Dwight Duncan, then Ontario Minister of Energy, was defending the $2.3 billion cost of smart meter installations. In a media report “Duncan wants the meters installed so residents and businesses can save money by using electricity in off-peak hours. He says Italy saved so much money that consumers there did not have to pay for the meters. But he doesn’t know if Ontario electricity users will be that lucky.”
Needless to say, we weren’t that lucky!
Several years later when George Smitherman held the post of Energy Minister he testified April 9, 2009 before the Standing Committee on General Government in respect to the Green Energy and Green Economy Act. One of his offerings to the Committee was the big promise: “We anticipate about 1% per year of additional rate increase associated with the bill’s implementation over the next 15 years. Our estimate of cost increases is based upon the way that we actually amortize costs in the energy sector. The research contracted by the official opposition does not. Their report apportions capital costs without consideration of the life of the asset, or, put another way, they didn’t amortize those costs. Their report counts the costs for conservation programs without providing any benefit for reduced consumption by the consumer.”
The new ECO report is 268 pages reiterating these same messages we ratepayers and taxpayers have been hearing, over and over again, for the past 15 years. Is Ms. Saxe unaware the Ontario voters reduced legislative seats held by Liberal MPPs to seven and the principal reason behind their fall from grace was the energy/electricity file? In searching the report, the words “electricity conservation” garners 175 hits and the word “electricity” generates 799 findings. The word “renewables” provides 66 hits and the word “billion” is used 53 times.
Ms. Saxe sincerely believes the world will come to an end unless Ontario’s ratepayers and taxpayers freeze in the dark or pay dearly for any energy consumed!
Ontario’s ECO wants Ontario’s ratepayers and taxpayers to reduce their fossil fuel consumption** while China’s power industry has called for hundreds of new coal power plants to be built by 2030. They have asked the government to allow for the development of between 300 and 500 new coal power plants by 2030 in a move that could single-handedly jeopardize global climate change targets.
That puts a damper on what Ontario might hope to achieve to prevent being “toasted, roasted and grilled”. Perhaps if each of the taxpayers of the province were paid the $207,676.40, the “Sunshine List” disclosed Ms. Saxe was paid in 2018 as the ECO, we would be happy to absorb higher prices for electricity or could buy an expensive EV to reduce our fossil fuel consumption. Until that happens, Ms. Saxe should tone down her expectations!
Ms. Saxe should realize if we are freezing in the dark it is difficult to be “happy, healthy and prosperous”!
Until then, let’s meet “same time tomorrow.”
*The Premier Ford led government has decreed the ECO should in the future report directly to the Auditor General.
**Fossil fuel consumption in Ontario in 2015 was (petroleum products and natural gas) 2,269 pj (petajoule) with a value of $16.8 billion according to the report and Ontario generated GDP (gross domestic product) of $618 billion meaning fossil fuels contributed only 2.7% of our GDP.