by Rob Ferguson, Toronto Star
LONDON, ONT.—Lost green energy jobs are a small price to pay for cheaper electricity bills, says Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak. Hudak has been campaigning for the kind of jobs “you can buy a house with” but was unapologetic Tuesday when he said he’d kill the Liberal government’s $7 billion, 16,000-job green energy deal with Samsung — and 200 local jobs along with it.
“We can’t afford it,” he said on Newstalk 1290 CJBK, referring to the controversial pact with the South Korean manufacturing giant, which he blames for rising electricity rates as Ontario heads toward the Oct. 6 election. “Higher hydro bills kill jobs.”
Under the deal, Samsung and its partners are to invest $7 billion in green energy in Ontario — including plants in London, Windsor, Tillsonburg and Toronto — and create 16,000 jobs. The company is to receive $110 million in taxpayer subsidies over 25 years. The deal was revised in August amid political pressure.
Last week Samsung executives appeared with Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty in London to announce the new 200-employee plant that will make solar modules panels in the city, which is struggling with a 9.1 per cent unemployment rate.
But Hudak said the Samsung deal is too high a price to pay to keep that plant, reiterating his promise to scrap the agreement.
“I won’t be signing these pie-in-the-sky contracts that are driving up hydro rates through the roof. One thing that kills jobs – expensive energy. The higher energy rates go, the less money people have to spend in the economy, and businesses don’t have the confidence to hire.”
At a Scarborough solar factory, McGuinty was incredulous at Hudak’s comments on Samsung.
“We’re talking about jobs here,” said McGuinty, flanked by scores of workers from Eclipsall Energy Corporation, which has created 100 jobs thanks to the Green Energy Act subsidies. McGuinty is promising the act and the Samsung deal will create 50,000 jobs by the end of next year, including 20,000 already in the pipeline.
“What is the financial cost of getting out of that (Samsung) contract to taxpayers? What is the cost to our reputation in the global economy as the Ontario government turns its back on a signed deal,” he said.
“But most importantly there’s a terrible cost to our families.”
Hudak insisted his economic promises such as cutting middle-class income taxes, corporate tax rates, red tape for business and removing the 8 per cent provincial portion of the HST on home heating and electricity bills would help boost Ontario’s economy and lead to more job creation.
“We’re going to create more jobs,” he promised.