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Queen's Park Report: Energy continued priority

MPP Jim McDonell

Published on November 25, 2017

Jim McDonell

QUEEN'S PARK - In Queen’s Park energy continued to be a priority. The government faced calls to stop wasting our energy resources, account for its debt properly and to stop selling our power at a loss.

As manufacturing jobs fled Ontario, Bruce Nuclear was able to increase generation by approximately 30%, creating a large surplus of electricity despite the closing of Ontario’s coal-fired plants. The Green Energy Act also added over-priced and inflexible solar and wind power to the energy mix, forcing Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to engage in two wasteful practices. Firstly, water was spilled over Ontario’s hydro dams, and Bruce Power was required to vent steam to reduce the power generated, despite having already paid for it. Next, when generation could not be reduced enough to match demand, OPG was forced to dump the excess power on the electricity market and try to recoup any remuneration they could, at below cost prices and, at times, having to pay other jurisdictions to take the excess power. The Ontario Society of Professional Engineers reported that in 2016, this resulted in a net financial loss of up to $1.25 billion. The Ontario ratepayer, therefore, subsidizes cheap electricity for residents and businesses in Quebec, New York, and Michigan, who then attract even more businesses away, creating a vicious cycle. This cycle isn’t to be tinkered with, or improved. It must be broken with decisive policy commitments. A major automaker has accused this government of making Ontario the most expensive place in North America to manufacture goods. It is little wonder that we have witnessed the exodus of over 300,000 good-paying manufacturing to our neighbours.

The government passed its labour reforms with only a small concession to rural municipalities. The cost of volunteer firefighter and other essential services under Bill 148 would have risen so much as to force many municipal tax rates to almost double their current level. Unfortunately, the pleas of employers who are about to witness their business’ viability eaten into by higher costs went unanswered. Many experts predict that Bill 148’s rapid implementation will kill as many as 186,000 jobs and hamper economic growth. I share their concern and sincerely hope we are all wrong, and that Ontario will defy the laws of economics. Hope is not a basis for government policy, though.

After five weeks of a college strike, the government took belated action and restarted classes. Inadequate government funding drove colleges into a financial corner, precipitating this strike. When the strike happened, the government maintained a deafening silence, let colleges take the blame and sat back as students’ semesters were put in jeopardy. As students return to class, they face having to pay for extra residence rent, food and other living expenses while being offered trivial sums in exchange for dropping out of their courses. This is neither education nor responsible government – this is cynicism. The government caused the strike to begin with, and it is their duty to make students, its real victims, whole. Our calls for such action are yet to be answered, and we owe our college students the best education our college system can deliver.