It was with a great measure of trepidation that I watched George Smitherman introduce the much vaunted Green Energy Act (Bill 150) in the legislature last week. It only got worse. As I read the Bill, visions of Orwell’s Big Brother danced in front of my eyes. The Liberal government has managed to take the same action we did — making it easier for private sector risk takers to invest in Ontario — and use that to completely undermine a competitive market for energy in Ontario.
As one of the longest serving Energy Ministers in Ontario’s history, I have a keen interest in Bill 150. Under Progressive Conservative leadership, we set the stage in 1998 with the Energy Competition Act, for an expanded, flexible, nimble and commercial energy sector in Ontario. We broke up the monolithic Ontario Hydro, and invited entrepreneurs to invest and compete in Ontario’s electricity system. It was that restructuring which set the stage for a financially secure and diverse energy mix, and allowed the current Government to even contemplate the things that they are talking about when they promote this Bill, such as jobs and green renewable energy like wind, solar, and biomass.
A Green Energy Act sounds like it will score points and be popular, regardless of what it says inside. Other than scoring political points in the polls, the Liberals can’t tell you what their real purpose is in doing this.
During my tenure as Energy Minister, we shifted risk from the Ontario taxpayer to the private sector. Under Bill 150, private developers are guaranteed their rates and revenues no matter what they build, where they build it, or when they operate it and Ontarians are required to pay the tab.
The second initiative I undertook was to foster competition to ensure the best product for the lowest price. But Bill 150 eliminates the last remnants of a competitive marketplace. The government is welcoming private developers to build anything, anywhere, anytime, at any price and Ontarians will pay for it. What’s more, everyone will be paid the same price so there’s no need to be innovative and to find a way to make power cleaner or cheaper. The government will lock the whole province in at a substantially higher rate than we all pay now. That means a less competitive economy and more job losses.
Competition was meant to drive costs down over time – as it has done with phone service, long distance service, and internet service. But this Liberal Government has decided to regulate that price which can only go up.
My third undertaking was to create consumer choice. Under our system, companies like Bullfrog Power arose, giving consumers the choice to buy 100% green power if they wanted. And thousands of homeowners and businesses made that choice. But under this Act, consumer’s choice has been replaced by “George’s Choice”. Mr. Smitherman doesn’t think Ontarians can be trusted to manage their own hydro bills. He will now tell everyone exactly how much green power they’ll use, how much nuclear power, how much coal power. George has decided that, since he wants to pay a much higher fixed rate, we are all going to pay a much higher fixed rate.
The Green Energy Act should really be called the “George Smitherman Master of the Universe Act“. He has seized on the positive steps of our initial 1998 restructuring, and turned them completely on their head — moving risk from the private sector onto taxpayers and ratepayers; eliminating competitive pricing; taking freedom of choice away from Ontario consumers; and leaving us all with higher electricity bills and fewer jobs.
If I were Premier McGuinty, I would be worried by Bill 150, the Green Energy Act.
As an Ontario consumer and taxpayer, I am frightened by it.
For more information on Jim Wilson’s work at Queen’s Park visit www.JimWilsonMPP.com