By Hunter Crowther
Fifteen months before Ontario voters decide whether or not to re-elect Kathleen Wynne and the provincial Liberals in government, the premier made a last-ditch effort to curb enthusiasm for change in office.
In a plan introduced to Queen’s Park on March 1, the Grits are set on lowering residential hydro bills by 25 per cent from where they were this time last year. To reach this goal, the government will relieve billions of dollars in costs off consumers this year, tacking them onto future hydro bills and future taxpayers.
“Over time, it will cost a bit more. That’s true,” Wynne said when explaining the plan. “And it will take longer to pay off. That’s also true.
“But it is fairer, because it doesn’t ask this generation of hydro customers alone to pay the freight for everyone before and after,” she said.
The Globe and Mail reported last week that in November 2007, the highest rate for households, during peak hours, was 8.7 cents per kilowatt/hour. Less than a decade later, that rate has ballooned to 18 cents per kWh.
It was admirable of Wynne to admit fault for skyrocketing hydro bills last November – at least sort of, saying “I take responsibility as leader for not paying close enough attention to some of the daily stresses in Ontarians’ lives.”
Saying that to nearly 1,000 party delegates is one thing. Facing a press scrum and answering to your constituents is another.
Also, what is your job, if not to pay attention to the struggles your constituents face? Voters trust in elected officials to make economically smart decisions, write effective policy and make life easier. That’s the entire purpose of government in a working democracy.
In our country, Liberals are elected with the expectation they will make investments in infrastructure and plan for the future. Where Conservatives are considered fickle with spending and keeping taxes low, Liberals have campaigned on the ideology that taxes can be used for good.
This latest move in appeasing voters is a direct contradiction of that.
Nearly $28 billion in projected costs over the next decade will be refinanced, paid by Ontarians down the road. It’s fodder for political pundits to joke about Liberal spending and always being in debt, and this sequence is a prime example of why certain stereotypes exist.
“I’ve got two teenage girls at home,” PC energy critic Todd Smith said on March 2. “Their kids are going to be paying for this.”
Yes, they will. As will the readers of this newspaper when they get older and if they stay in the province. The Ontario Liberals have saddled future generations with endless months of hydro bills that will soak up their paychecks.
Never mind the province spending $4 billion more this year than projected two years ago, or that Ontario relies on the federal government for nearly $25 billion annually, twice what it received a decade ago.
What’s most alarming is how Ontario’s net debt (the subtraction of total liabilities and debts from total value of all assets) is the largest, relative to GDP, of any jurisdiction in North America, save for Quebec.
That’s right: all the states and broken communities down south have a better financial outlook on things than we do.
The data website “ThreeHundredEight” released a Feb. 26 poll where Wynne’s Liberals trail Patrick Brown’s Ontario Progressive Conservatives by nearly 14 points. Andrea Horwath’s provincial New Democrats are barely a percentage point behind Wynne in the same poll.
Voters only have to look back at Wynne’s predecessor should they need guidance a year and change before they vote for Queen’s Park. The very scandal that handed Wynne her job as premier foreshadowed the Liberals’ ongoing issue with energy. The Ontario power plant scandal led to the cancellation of two natural gas power plants being constructed: one in Mississauga, another in Oakville.
The government promised the cost of cancelling the plants would not exceed $230 million. The Auditor General of Ontario released a report stating the total cost was nearly a billion dollars.
The fallout led to the resignation of Dalton McGuinty, clearing the path for Wynne. But McGuinty’s approval rating, even before resigning, was never lower than Wynne’s 13 per cent in a Forum poll from last November.
Nails on a chalkboard for Ontario’s rosy reds, music to the ears for the boys in blue.