Liberals must come clean on Green, MP says

North Renfew Times

Premier Dalton McGuinty and Energy Minister George Smitherman are not being upfront or honest about the financial impact of their new Green Energy Act for the average Ontario family, says Progressive Conservative energy critic and local MP John Yakabuski.

“This legislation raises many more questions than it answers,” he said.

“We need to know how much Dalton McGuinty’s legislation is going to jack up energy costs for the average Ontario family, but as usual Mr. McGuinty and his minister can’t give us a straightforward answer.

Yakabuski asked both McGuinty and Smitherman how much the cost of electricity will go up, noting that in other countries with similar legislation, the cost of energy is now three times what it is here.

Despite asking eight questions in the provincial legislature, neither McGuinty nor his minister provided a single answer, Yakabuski said.

Yakabuski noted that Smitherman put the cost of the bill at $5 billion.

With 4.2 million electricity consumers in Ontario footing that bill, it pans out to an extra $1,200 per consumer.

Over three years, that equals a 30 per cent increase – not the one per cent increase Smitherman has promised, said Yakabuski.

“Ontarians were not fooled when Stephane Dion tried to tell them that his Green Shift plan wasn’t going to cost them a thing, and they’re not going to be fooled by your plan,” Yakabuski told Smitherman in the legislature.

PC House Leader Elizabeth Witmer (Kitchener-Waterloo) questioned McGuinty on why his government is trying to fast-track the bill.

“We have some very real concerns about the way this bill is being rammed through the legislature without following the proper democratic channels,” said Witmer.

“It is a bill with sweeping changes that will affect many Ontarians. They deserve a chance to speak out, but the McGuinty Liberals are silencing their voices.”

Both Witmer and Yakabuski urged the Liberals to bring the large and complex bill to committee hearings before second reading to allow for a public discourse sooner rather than later.

They pointed to the precedent set by former Liberal Energy Minister Dwight Duncan, who allowed Bill 100, another sweeping energy bill, to go before committee after first reading.

“When Ontarians are done paying for their mortgages, food, clothing and now higher electricity prices, they’re not going to have much left for anything else,” said Yakabuski.

“We need to know now what the cost of electricity is going to be on behalf of consumers, families, seniors and low-income Ontarians – people who can hardly afford the electricity bills they’re paying now.”

From the provincial legislature:

John Yakabuski: My question is for the Premier. The proposed Green Energy Act raises an alarming number of questions.

During these times of economic downturn, when everyone is counting their pennies, Ontarians want to know how much more they’re going to have to pay to heat their homes and keep the lights on under this new legislation.

Can you tell us that, Premier?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I’m very pleased to take this question and I’m very much looking forward to having the opportunity to hear debates in this legislature and to create opportunities for the public to speak to this as well.

We are very pleased and proud to be able to introduce the bill… It is going to enable us to create new, clean, green jobs, it’s going to enable us to generate clean, green electricity and it’s going to enable more of us to do our part in the fight against climate change. So I really think it is the sweet spot of sweet spots.

The price of electricity from wind is higher than it is from dirty coal. The price of electricity from the sun, harnessing that power, is more expensive than dirty, fired coal. Those are true.

But on the other side, there’s also a very important aspect to our new legislation, which is going to ensure that we have more energy conservation to keep our bills down.

Yakabuski: I didn’t get the answer there. Yesterday, the Minister of Energy indicated that there would essentially be no increase as a result of this bill. He said, “One per cent per year for the next three years.”

If the minister thinks he can fool Ontarians with this sleight of hand, he’s dead wrong.

Yesterday he said there would be an initial increased investment of $5 billion. When that amount is paid – and that’s just for the transmission upgrades they’re talking about – by 4.2 million electricity consumers, that calculates out to an extra $1,200 per customer.

Spread out over three years, that’s a 30 per cent increase, Minister, not a one per cent increase.

Premier, explain to this House how you can promise a one per cent increase by your own figures when the increase to consumers will be at least 30 per cent.

McGuinty: My honourable colleague is engaging in all kinds of speculation….

What we need to do and what we will continue to do is find more ways for more Ontarians, whether inside our schools, our hospitals, our industries or our homes, to use less electricity.

At the end of the day, what is really important to Ontarians is their bill.

We’re going to do everything we can to create more opportunities for more Ontarians to keep that bill down and, ideally, like my honourable colleague, get it even lower.

Yakabuski: I accept your unsolicited compliments. What I’d really like are some clear answers.

Ontarians were not fooled when Stephane Dion tried to tell them that his Green Shift plan wasn’t going to cost them a thing, and they’re not going to be fooled by your plan.

Yesterday, the minister held up Germany as a model. Well, the price of electricity in Germany is north of 22 cents a kilowatt hour.

That’s at least three times, three and a half times, the rate of electricity here, Mr. Premier.

How can you stand there and tell Ontarians that their energy bills are not going to go up by more than a single percentage point per year? In fact, they’re going through the roof.

That’s what’s going to happen. It’s time that you came clean.

McGuinty: I gather from this line of questioning – I hope this is not true, but notwithstanding the international praise that this bill has already garnered, and the fact that it’s going to create some 50,000 jobs and is going to ensure that we can have energy conservation proceed in a very aggressive way, it would appear that the regressive Conservative Party is not standing ready to support this bill. That is unfortunate.

The point I want to make is that there’s a difference between our electricity rates and our electricity bills.

It’s interesting that my honourable colleague talked about electricity rates in Germany, but he didn’t talk about their home electricity bills.

I think if he checks their home electricity bills and the way they practice energy conservation, then we’ll have something that we can honestly compare between their bills and our bills.

Yakabuski: I don’t think everybody’s packing up and leaving for Germany, Mr. Premier.