THUNDER BAY – Over the coming months and years, for many people in Ontario conservation of energy will become very important. Part of the reason is that the cost of electricity is expected to soar. “Today Ontario families are going to be paying a staggering $350 more a year for hydro while these energy bureaucracies continue to waste money on salaries and consultants. Our Ontario PC Plan for a Sunset Review will stop this runaway spending and control waste,” charges Ontario PC Energy Critic John Yakabuski, MPP.
“It is time that we replaced Dalton McGuinty’s culture of entitlement with a culture of accountability. A transparent and public Sunset Review will allow the public to judge for themselves where their money is being well invested and where it is going to waste,” adds Yakabuski.
The real issue however might be larger than the Ontario PCs are seeing it.
“Government’s enthusiasm to embrace what it claimed to be cheap, “clean”, environmentally benign electricity at the same time as diminishing CO2 emissions appears to have ignored all the realistic information that was available, leaving an energy policy based on little more than a leap of faith,” writes Keith Stelling in a paper titled, “What went wrong with Ontario’s energy policy? Comparing spin & reality”.
Part of the problem outlined by Stelling is that some of the “green energy” options that the McGuinty government have embraced are actually not as “green” as they first seem.
Wind energy as an example still requires support in for form of other power producing alternatives. In Thunder Bay, even with the proposed wind farm that City Council is seeking to find legal opinions over, will not allow for the shutdown of the OPG station on Mission Island. When the wind doesn’t blow, or when it blows really powerfully, the wind turbines can’t be used.
Stelling notes, “The Green Energy Act was originally proposed by the Ontario Green Energy Act Alliance, a coalition of the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, together with other trade associations, developers, manufacturers, and environmental groups including the David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence Canada, Pembina Institute and World Wildlife Fund Canada. Their proposal eventually formed the basis of the Green Energy Act.
“However, Tom Adams, former head of Energy Probe, has pointed out problems of accountability in the Green Energy Act. He notes the disturbing conflicts of interest in government funding of NGO’s whereby taxpayer dollars were used to create a support base for the government’s agenda—a new phenomenon that was never recognized or addressed”.
When governments subsidize Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which then lobby the government, it is not a sound basis for forming solid public policy. It is a way for ideas perhaps not supported by the wider population.
In the McGuinty legislation, electricty rates are set to soar. In Northwestern Ontario, despite rebates for the biggest industrial users, the rates are still a factor in the ongoing problems in the forestry sector. It is very likely that they will be a major economic limiting factor for secondary processing of mineral resources in the “Ring of Fire”.
That battle is already being fought in Timmins as Xstrata is moving their processing facility out of Ontario citing power costs as a major impact.
Sterling cites Tom Adams, who claims, “The G.E.A. shuts down local democracy with respect to renewable energy and energy conservation decision making. It provides for whole classes of customers to be exempted from increased costs of green energy if they are on the right side of the Minister”.
“The G.E.A. creates a secretive new government agency whose job it is to promote business interests but is shielded from citizen and legislative oversight and accountability. The G.E.A. destroys the foundation for effective utility regulation by taking away the independence of the Ontario Energy Board and weakening the right of citizens who might be seeking the protection of the Environmental Review Tribunal.”
“Under the G.E.A., cabinet will be able to set levels for special taxes on energy to be paid by energy consumers. The tax revenue from that will not be subject to the normal scrutiny that other tax revenue is subject to”.
It is perhaps there where the real problem lies for Thunder Bay City Council, or for other municipal governments. Some Councillors have implied that the decision over the wind farm really isn’t in their hands, but that the provincial government has the real authority. It is a claim that government MPPs have denied.
The issue is one that will impact Ontario for years to come. That there remain serious questions, and long-term economic implications from the decision that the McGuinty Government are making should have voters questioning exactly why the decisions have been made.
With increased rates for each and every family, it is likely that electricity rates are going to be a major issue in the 2011 Ontario Provincial Election.
James Murray, News Director