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Ontario Hansard - 15-May2017

Mr. Bill Walker: It’s a pleasure to stand and speak on Bill 132, the Ontario Fair Hydro Plan Act, 2017, or as my colleague from Prince Edward county called it, the Ontario fair hydro scheme. Mr. Speaker, I’ll also be sharing my time with the member from Nipissing.

What we are certain of is that this Liberal government’s new hydro scheme is going to be a big hit in the pocketbooks of Ontarians, one of unprecedented proportions. The short term gain that they’re professing out there, a 25% hydro-rate cut this summer, will lead to long-term pain, as shown in a leaked cabinet document. Let’s not forget that this government, in their 13 years, have had those rates escalate between 200% and 400%, so I’m not even certain they can justify that it’s a great thing to get 25% back when you’ve escalated upwards between 200% and 400%.

Let’s not forget, again, that the taxpayer is going to be on the hook for this extra $25 billion for moving it out, for deferring payment—remortgaging your mortgage, as they like to say. This is money that will not be going to other programs like health care, education, long-term care and mental health. This is money that’s borrowed on the backs of our children and our grandchildren. They can spin it however they like, but someone has to pay the debt, and it’s not going to be them. They have just moved it off their plate. One of my colleagues is using the term “electioneering,” and I believe that that sadly is the case. This is coming out to try to say, “All is good in the world. Just take the 25%, and vote us back in again for another four years.” This is deferred payment. They have done nothing to truly address the actual cause of the problem with this bill.

I’m going to go back to the document. It was marked confidential, as it was for the Liberal cabinet ministers’ eyes only. It forecasts that prices will jump again in five years. My colleague from Prince Edward county, the critic for energy, thanked—as I’m going to thank—the whistleblower who actually brought that document because, in good conscience, they know is going to impact their families, their loved ones and everyone across our great province. So I thank them for bringing it forward. It is our job to hold the government to account when we find out that there’s a document out there that truly is saying that prices are going escalate significantly after we get past this next election. It’s not going to work. I certainly hope it isn’t.

Rates will start rising 6.5% a year in 2022 and top out at 10.5% in 2028, when average monthly bills will hit $215 per month. In other words, this bill will allow the Liberals to continue the mistakes of the past 14 years under their reign—a reign of terror, I might suggest, for some people—and stretch them out over the next 30 years.

In Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound, people are coming up to be and asking me, “How can they do this? How can they make even more of a nightmare out of the energy file?” This used to be the strength of Ontario. We used to have the lowest rates in Confederation. We used to be the actual engine of the train when it came to electricity. Now we have the highest rates. They’re trying to paint a rose-coloured-glasses picture, trying to convince people this is all going to be good. It’s their money—it’s your money, Mr. Speaker, and it’s the taxpayers’ money that is paying the freight for this train, and all they’re doing is moving it out 10 years and pretending that all is good.

The document also shows that Liberals are bringing back the debt retirement charge at $22 a month, which is four times the cost than when it was removed just a few years ago or in the last year from the bill. People were very concerned at that time about how much they were paying for a debt retirement charge and how long it was being paid for despite some of the debt already being paid back. Small businesses are still paying that debt retirement. Now, as a homeowner, as someone paying energy costs in this province, $22 a month is what it’s going to escalate to, four times the cost of what it was just recently.

As expected, the Liberals are denying any of this is true, even though it’s spelled out in their secret cabinet document. The facts are the facts. The package was delivered by someone who said, “I can’t not do this. In good conscience, I need to let someone else know that the government knows exactly what they’re doing. This isn’t in the best interests of Ontarians.”

Let’s talk about their hydro plans to date. Since the passing of the Green Energy Act in 2009, the Liberals have rammed through policies without any regard for the cost to electricity consumers in Ontario. We actually refer to that Green Energy Act as the bad contracts act. Since 2005, we’ve paid—not given away; we’ve paid—the United States and Quebec, other jurisdictions, $6.3 billion to take our surplus energy, and yet we’re putting more energy onto the grid. We’re procuring contracts for even more energy, much of that renewable, and renewable that is intermittent. That’s the big concern. When it’s intermittent, you have to fire up gas to replace it when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine.

Ironically, the Green Energy Act was brought in in 2009, and $5.8 billion of that $6.3 billion we’ve paid out for surplus energy is the result of and focused on the Green Energy Act. Over the life of those contracts, we as taxpayers, the great people of Ontario, will spend $133 billion on the Green Energy Act. At best, at the most efficient, it’s going to be 5% of our grid. It makes no sense, other than for ideology, that this government will not stand up and admit that they made a mistake, back down from it and tell the people of Ontario, “We are taking accountability and we will take our hits for this.” Rather, they’re trying to continue to spin as we go.

Since being elected in 2011, I have been voicing concerns from my constituents about the unaffordability of hydro in rural Ontario resulting from those bad green energy contracts that the Liberal Party has been signing since the act passed. Even when they brought out the announcement of this rate relief, the next day they entered into more contracts for wind and solar. We have too much power already, it’s an intermittent source, but we’re going to add to that. What do we do? We turn off collecting all the water from Ontario Power Generation down in Niagara Falls. The cleanest, greenest, freest form of energy, three cents a kilowatt approximately, we turn off and we don’t collect all of it. Then we call places like our nuclear plants that have been contracted because they have a workforce, a very well-paid workforce that has huge positive impacts on our economy, and say, “Oh, don’t do that. Vent the steam out, but we’ll contractually pay you to do that,” while they’re guaranteeing access to the grid. It makes no sense. I’ve tried to get my head around this and I just don’t understand.

Between 2006 and 2014, Ontarians paid $37 billion extra for electricity, according to Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk. She concluded, as I’ve just mentioned, that we’ll pay an additional $133 billion by 2032 as a result of the global adjustment electricity fees on hydro bills. They’re just playing games with some of these terms. Now they’re trying to change it back to different names of what that actual adjustment is going to be.

At the end of the day, you move whatever shell on the board you want; it doesn’t really matter. The people of Ontario are on the hook for all of that debt.

I want to repeat, Mr. Speaker, and I’m going to probably repeat and repeat, because hopefully they’ll start to listen with that. What the Liberal government said would be an increase of no more than $1 or $2 to Ontarians would turn out to be an overpayment of $133 billion by 2032. It’s reminiscent of when they tried to tell us that the gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga would be $40 million at the most. That was a $1.1-billion boondoggle that, again, is not paid.

The energy minister at that time, Mr. Chiarelli from Ottawa, argued that the charges were a result of the previous Progressive Conservative government. Clearly he and their government misspoke and definitely miscalculated the hydro schemes of the day. If they have their way again, my fear is that Ontarians will continue to pay the biggest markups in electricity pricing in the country.

While renewable energy is a speaking point for the re-election narrative, it’s also very expensive for Ontarians. That Green Energy Act, Mr. Speaker, has saddled us with debt that the pages in front of you are going to pay for many, many years. As I say, it’s a double-edged sword, because while you’re paying all those, and we are spending all of the money we are on debt payments, then we’re not putting it into things like our hospitals. They’re closing 600 schools across this great province because they ran out of money. At the end of the day, that’s not acceptable.

We want to ensure with bills like this that we’re putting good policy in place for Ontarians, that we’re addressing the challenges so that we actually have mental health services, affordable housing, hospitals that are there when we need them, medicines that are there when we need them, long-term-care facilities—26,500 seniors are waiting on long-term-care lists, and there’s nothing in that budget, Mr. Speaker.

1750

The highest energy rates in the province of Ontario are forcing small businesses, medium businesses and large businesses out of Ontario. It’s forcing people to not expand and not move to Ontario—which could create jobs for the benefit of all of us.

We need to ensure, at the end of the day, when they say the words “Ontario” and “fair,” that it’s truly fair to Ontario taxpayers, to the people we have the privilege to represent, and not for their re-election, not for their own need to stay in power, to cling to power at any cost. At the end of the day, this hydro rebate relief program is nothing more than short-term gain for long-term pain that they’ve saddled our kids and our grandkids with for many, many years in the future, and it’s simply unacceptable.

Vic?


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