Liberals’ “make it up as you go along” strategy threatens rural seats

See also:  Financial Post – Ontario Solar Program in Disarray

Robert Benzie Queen’s Park Bureau Chief, Toronto Star 

Premier Dalton McGuinty is taking heat over a drastic cut in the subsidy for farmers who generate solar power, which some Liberals fear could cause an eclipse of the party’s rural seats.

Government insiders warn as many as a dozen Liberal seats could be in play due to what is shaping up as an urban-rural schism—and that could mean the difference between winning and losing the October 2011 election.

At issue is a policy change quietly announced last Friday, in the middle of an extended Canada Day long weekend, when the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) disclosed that a program for small producers of solar electricity had “vastly surpassed expectations” with 16,000 applicants, so the rate being paid would have to be slashed.

Most of the 16,000 applicants to the “microFIT” scheme are farmers hoping to cash in by building ground-mounted solar projects in their fields and selling electricity to the grid for a subsidized price of 80.2 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s 20 times the price paid for nuclear power.

But concerned the subsidy could cost Ontario electricity ratepayers an additional $1 billion over 20 years, the OPA now says only 58.8 cents per kilowatt hour can be paid for such power—while still forking out 80.2 cents for electricity generated from the roof-mounted solar panels more common in urban areas.

One Grit MPP said would-be solar entrepreneurs are calling MPPs at their homes, day and night, to vent their furor at what they see as a betrayal of a promise.

“We’re just getting the s— beaten out of us,” complained another on Thursday.

During Wednesday’s Liberal caucus meeting, MPPs—who spoke to the Star on condition of anonymity because the session was in camera—pleaded with McGuinty to reconsider.

“This is a slap in the face to rural Ontario,” fumed one member.

“You’re just going to have to wear this,” the premier told his stunned caucus in the tense, three-hour, closed-door session, according to eyewitnesses.

“And I’m going to have to wear it, too,” McGuinty quickly added, after apparently reading the dismay on MPPs’ faces.

Energy Minister Brad Duguid, who sources say faced scathing questions about microFIT from his fellow Grit MPPs, said it is “ridiculous” to suggest the government favours urban entrepreneurs over rural generators.

“I recognize that they’re disappointed because they (the solar producers) were going to make a whack of dough,” Duguid said Thursday, insisting solar panels in fields are much cheaper to install than roof-mounted equipment.
The minister emphasized the rural producers will still make a healthy 11 per cent rate of return on their investment at 58.8 cents per kilowatt hour, compared to an “exorbitant” 25 per cent to 30 per cent at 80.2 cents.

“There’s close to five million consumers (of electricity) throughout the province that are being asked to foot the bill,” he noted.

However, the Liberal government may end up paying a hefty price, too.

In a two-hour conference call the OPA held Thursday to discuss the change with solar power investors, caller after caller complained they felt “betrayed” and “outraged” by the move and urged others to “bombard” their MPPs because the government “lied to” and “misled” them.

Hybrid Eco Watts’ Ralph Stephen, a solar equipment dealer in Thorndale, near London, said farmers spend an average of about $100,000 to buy the ground-mounted gear.

Stephen said it’s “poppycock” to say urban, roof-mounted systems are much more expensive, arguing the 80.2 cent price should be paid to everyone.

“The rural community does not have a big, powerful vote anymore, so I firmly believe rural Ontario was sacrificed,” he said.

Progressive Conservative MPP John Yakabuski (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke), who opposes the microFIT program because he believes it is unsustainable, said people “feel like they’ve had the rug pulled from under their feet.”

“The government is now trying to cover its incompetence by changing the rules in the middle of the game,” said Yakabuski.

16 thoughts on “Liberals’ “make it up as you go along” strategy threatens rural seats

  1. Motto for the Ontario Liberals…”We make it up as we go along”….

  2. Well isn’t this just great, Loblaws was the largest recipient of solar Microfit contracts – all rooftop and costing $.80/kwh – can’t offend Loblaws. The hayseeds in the country don’t count anywho. I’m sure the solar Microfit was cutting into wind leases too. Nice to watch the sharks feed on themselves.

  3. If there is a silver lining to any
    aspect of this green energy fiasco,
    its that the Liberals are doing a good
    job in pissing-off just about everybody.

  4. This won’t be the last upset. The Green Energy Act was pushed through so quickly with so little thought, planning or input…and all these rural Liberal MPPs applauded it. I really feel sorry for them.

  5. Seems hard to believe that the Ontario Libs are feinting concern about handouts of taxpayer dollars….after they’ve already committed over $20 Billion dollars to the FAKE Green Energy Act…

    I guess if they cut-back on funds paid to rural Ontario then they can send more monies to South Korea…for Wind Turbines which are much more invasive than solar panels…

    Shame on these farmers for trying to produce enuff of their own solar energy to get off the grid….There is no escape for any of you….

  6. That’s quite the spin the Star puts on it.

    The rural seats were already gone. I’m sure there are a lot of people frustrated by what they see as the government reneging on an assumed deal, but I suspect far more had applied who thought it was ridiculous but couldn’t believe their luck.

    I know people working with facilities tracking down every flat roof they could find – the advantages Duguid sites for fields over roofs assume a peak residential roof.

    Those aren’t the roofs at Loblaws, or, I suspect, the majority of urban installations.

  7. Remember the days when Duguid said he had ‘intestinal fortitude’, that’s why he had the amazing ability to ram these solar/wind projects down the Ontario residents throat? Must be getting a weak stomach.

  8. Hey windaction, I think it’s a loose sphincter!;)

  9. Ha! I like the violin pic as well 🙂
    Don’t worry, we’ll all be poor bastards soon. And we’ll have bird carcasses piling up for years to come.

  10. So glad that McGuinty stated he is not faint of heart, and could ram his embracement of a false ideology down our rural throats. Me thinks the egg on his face is going to grow as exponentially as our opposition. what will be his legacy? “McGuinty’s Folly. ” on so many fronts, on so many levels. The beginning of the end of McGuintyisim. It will be all over soon….. but the crying. Thanks for the violin MA.

  11. Well Mr. Duguid you’ve sat far too long for the guid you are doing.
    I will briefly feel sorry for any Liberal politician when they are “forced” to live in close proximity of their creation while burying the mangled bodies of of their avian victims.

  12. My father in law bought one of these and had to mortgage his house to do so. We will end up inheriting it as we live on the same land. Get the Libs the hell out of the government. We’re still waiting on the actual solar panels to be installed. Right now the frame is sitting on the ground. Good thing it’s galvanized or it would be rusted out by now because of how long it’s been sitting there.
    We also live 3000 feet away from one turbine and the other closest one is 1km away. The 1km one looks like it’s next door.
    Can we have an election now? Please?

  13. Since mcguilty has honored his corporate commitments to his partners in crime , its time to shut down all competitors in this scheme . the truth is the opa has granted HUGE contracts to a select 3 corporations that stand to make billions from their “golden tickets” . This is the epitomy of gov’t -corporate collusion.Can anyone say NON CONFIDENCE?

  14. We all know people in Toronto and other large Ontario cities. It is time to get on the phone and tell our relatives and friends there about what the GEA costs for them will be – peaceful places in the country to go to for relaxation, a wide variety of bird species to show their children and grandchildren, healthy rural relatives and friends, and an ability to financially afford the lifestyle urbanites are accustomed to. This is our opportunity to spread the word into urban Liberal ridings. We need to expose the Liberal MPPs for what they truly are – non-thinking robots who do what their “leadership” tells them to in the face of facts which say otherwise. If we don’t spread the word we could get more of the same “leadership” next time around.

  15. Madasabat said:

    If there is a silver lining to any aspect of this green energy fiasco, its that the Liberals are doing a good job in pissing-off just about everybody.

    Every Silver Cloud has a black lining you know. You could look at it that way.

    I think they have upset a lot of people. The only people they seem to please are the people who naturally follow authority and do no investigation of their own and never question authority. How big can that group be?

  16. Jaydee said:

    If we don’t spread the word we could get more of the same “leadership” next time around.

    Count on it!

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