The Ontario liberals show they do not have a clue on how to run hydro. Get ready for your prices to go sky high soon and you likely won’t see anymore hydro.

hydro meter
hydro meter

Joe Oliver: Ontario’s electricity fiasco is going to get much, much worse

What explains the Ontario Liberal government’s $7 billion Climate Change Action Plan, which will infringe on people’s freedom, impose debilitating costs, set impossible targets and fail to produce meaningful reductions in GHG emissions? The only answer can be ideological fervour, divorced from economic or practical reality.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is behaving like an environmental activist unburdened by accountability, rather than a government leader devoted to protecting the welfare of her constituents. She is abetted by her chief of staff, Andrew Bevan, a former executive director of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement Secretariat and Glen Murray, minister of the environment and climate change, whose grand schemes and unworkable ideas were rejected by Manitoba voters.

Billions wasted on skulduggery and ideology barely register on the political radar

This doctrinal cabal’s latest crackpot plan was too much even for some members of the premier’s cabinet, sparking near open revolt by several of her economic ministers. Apparently, they advocated for a semblance of rationality in the mayhem that is Liberal energy policy.

This is not hyperbole. Bonnie Lysyk, the provincial auditor general, has set out the crushing burden of the government’s catastrophic blunders to date: $37 billion wasted on electricity above market price during the past eight years ($2,700 for each Ontario man, woman and child) with a further $132 billion to be racked up by 2032. Clearly, we are a peaceable kingdom, otherwise, a mob of outraged citizens would have by now gathered at Queen’s Park with pitchforks, demanding the immediate resignation of their failed nanny-state government.

Mind you, we are also subject to the political equivalent of the financial moral hazard that is “too big to fail.” Let’s call it “too big to visualize.” In Ottawa, $90,000 of questionable Senate expenses rallied calls to bring down a government and abolish the upper chamber. But in Ontario, tens of billions of dollars wasted on partisan skulduggery and ideological obsessions barely register on the political radar. That may be because of a cognitive limitation that makes it difficult for us to conceptualize very large numbers. Perhaps it would help to consider that Ontarians’ total electricity overpayment will amount to more than two-million times the payment made to Mike Duffy (while attracting less than one-hundredth the attention). Or that it means $17,000 in unnecessary power bills for every adult Ontarian.

Regardless, it is now going to get even worse. According to reports detailing the leaked climate plan, the premier praises it as “a transformation of how we look at our planet … that will forever change how we live, work, play and move.” This sounds like the boldest attempt to re-engineer society since Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Ironically, that revolution’s 50-year anniversary was greeted by official silence in China the same week as the climate leak.

A profound belief that climate change will doom the planet does not give licence to pursue unworkable policies at great cost. To the contrary, the result of this dysfunctional plan will be a missed opportunity to do something effective.

Among its myriad proposals, the Ontario government is planning to mandate that by 2030 new homes will have to be heated with electricity or geothermal systems. By 2050 that will encompass all buildings, a virtually insurmountable challenge since over three-quarters of heating in the province is from natural gas. (The premier has recently denied that there will be a total ban on natural gas.) Twelve per cent of new vehicles must be electric or hybrid by 2025, with only one gasoline-powered vehicle per household by 2024. Combined with cap and trade, the action plan’s carbon goals demand a Brobdingnagian disruption: reduce emissions by 15 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, 37 per cent by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2050.

Although the environmental goals cannot be achieved, the attempt will have dire consequences for Ontarians already struggling with the galloping cost of electricity, high taxes and rampant regulations. The automotive and energy sectors will be especially hard hit. Ontario’s manufacturing sector resembles that of Europe, where green policies have driven up energy costs to the point where some companies cannot compete. Jobs, economic growth, revenue for health care are all in peril, while the premier doggedly pursues her ruinous dirigiste policies, sublimely confident in the ability of government to address every problem, real or imagined. The beneficiaries of our misfortune are Americans who buy our energy below cost and attract job-creating investments chased from Ontario.

Dare I raise the issue of human liberty or is that passé, if not subversive, for progressives? The time was when people instinctively resented government dictating their every activity. If we start losing the desire to be free, then we are well and truly done for. Let those of us in Ontario grab a metaphorical pitchfork and demand the government back off this high cost and useless intrusion in our lives. At stake is our well-being and that of our children.

Joe Oliver is Canada’s former minister of finance

Joe Oliver, Special to Financial Post | June 6, 2016 3:20 PM ET

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