Financial Post – October 13, 2010
Ontario power lesson: Notes for a speech that Ontario’s Opposition leader could give, but won’t, on the state of the province’s electricity sector
By Lawrence Solomon
Ontario Conservative Leader Tim Hudak is a keynote speaker tomorrow at the Ontario Energy Association. Here is the speech he should, but won’t, give.
Let me start by apologizing for my party’s role in putting this province on the path to ruin. We are now seeing massive energy price hikes in communities throughout the province. These hikes are just the beginning. Power rates in Ontario will be doubling or tripling in the years ahead. It would be tempting, but dishonest, to blame this all on the Liberals and on the NDP. We Conservatives have been every bit as much to blame. In some ways, perhaps, we are the most of all to blame, because we were the ones who pulled the plug on the privatization of the old Ontario Hydro system, a privatization we ourselves had begun.
I am referring, of course, to that day in 2002 when Ernie Eves, the last Conservative premier of this province, panicked and stopped the privatization that Mike Harris began. Had he showed some spine and the courage of his convictions, Ontario would now have a secure power system delivering some of the lowest power prices on the continent, just as occurred elsewhere after deregulation. Instead, the provincial economy struggles under the bureaucratic weight of an alphabet soup of government electricity monopolies with names like OPG, OPA and IESO.
These bureaucracies aren’t accountable to the public – most members of the public couldn’t even tell you what these bureaucracies do. No, these bureaucracies serve their political masters instead of their customers. The latest example of how government ownership works to the detriment of the greater good came just last week in Oakville, where the McGuinty government decided to cancel an unpopular power plant, for fear that it would otherwise lose a seat in the next election.
The McGuinty government has not yet owned up to the cost of that cancellation but some reports indicate it could reach hundreds of millions, and all to keep the Liberals from losing a single seat. This is but one example of the politicization of the power system, and but one reason that our power rates have been soaring.
Of course, that Oakville power plant should never have been ordered in the first place – it was the result of another political decision, a grand-standing decision to replace the province’s entire fleet of coal plants in favour of windmills and other forms of renewable energy. The windmills not only cost several times as much as coal, they are also unavailable most of the time, because the wind doesn’t blow on demand. To provide backup when the wind doesn’t blow, the citizens of Oakville were told they would need to live with a power plant for a neighbour.
Ladies and gentlemen, until today, I have failed to vigorously defend our province’s coal-generating stations – some of which are among the cleanest on the continent – and I have failed to vigorously attack the entirely unjustified wind and solar projects that are bankrupting our province.
I have also played the same game that my political opponents have played, by picking my own favourites – nuclear and hydroelectricity – as deserving of subsidies.