Why would anyone trust Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government to make good on its reported plan to reduce electricity rates by 17%, in addition to the 8% provincial portion of the HST it removed Jan. 1?
Of course Wynne and Co. will act in the short term, because if they don’t, their chances of being re-elected next year are slim.
So expect them to get rates down before the election by shifting some electricity costs to the general tax base — in other words, robbing Peter to pay Paul — and going into more debt by extending the time period they’ll take to pay for power contracts.
But what about after the election, if they win another majority government?
How long will that 17% rate cut reported by the Toronto Star last then?
Remember when the Wynne Liberals, before the 2014 election, said they would cut auto insurance premiums an average of 15% by August, 2015?
Remember how, when they failed to achieve even half that, Wynne said the 15% cut had always been a “stretch goal?”
Until recently, the Liberals insisted there was no need to lower hydro rates in Ontario because, they said, they were in the middle of the pack in North America.
Never mind that a survey of major North American cities in 2016 by Hydro Quebec showed Ontario’s electricity rates were the highest in Canada.
Never mind that Brady Yauch, executive director and economist with the Consumer Policy Institute, wrote in the Toronto Sun last year that electricity prices in Ontario over the previous nine years had increased at a faster rate than anywhere else in North America.
Never mind that in 2015, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk reported the Liberals overpaid $9.2 billion for wind and solar power alone, and that Ontarians were paying twice the U.S. average for wind and 3.5 times the U.S. average for solar.
Never mind that the Liberals drove up hydro rates by 80% between 2004 and 2014.
Never mind that two auditors general — Jim McCarter and Lysyk — found the Liberals ignored the advice of their own experts on issues such as feed-in-tariffs for wind and solar power, failed to develop credible business plans and politically interfered in the electricity file.
While all that was going on, constituents contacting Liberal MPPs to complain about skyrocketing hydro rates were sent smug responses like this one, which one disillusioned hydro ratepayer passed along to me:
“Hydro rates as a province are right in the middle of the pack … Hard to rebuild a hydro system ($23 billion) and handle a stranded debt ($28 billion) without some adjustment on rates. Fortunately we’re through the worst of it. On the Green front — the Green Energy Act has replaced coal and encouraged conservation, but has added 2% on all our hydro bills. We’ll keep working on it. Changes to Hydro One should help.”
See? According to the Liberals, everything was peachy keen.
Until, that is, Wynne’s very recent conversion on the road to Damascus, where she flip-flopped and acknowledged electricity rates were too high, at about the same time her approval rating plummeted to just above “Elvis is alive” levels.
Remember when the Liberals won power in 2003 with then-leader Dalton McGuinty promising not to raise taxes, after which — as premier with a majority Liberal government — he imposed one of the largest tax hikes in Ontario’s history?
Don’t get fooled again.
By Lorrie Goldstein
March 1st 2017