By Antonella Artuso, Queen’s Park Bureau Chief Toronto Sun
Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said he won’t rip up signed energy contracts but the days of attracting solar and wind power to the province with pledges of highly lucrative rates would end under a PC government.
A Hudak government would also seek out “willing hosts” for energy projects and allow people to opt back to flat electricity rates, he said.
“Energy policy is about economics and stop treating it like a social program,” Hudak said in breakfast speech Thursday hosted by the Ontario Energy Association. “Quite frankly, we cannot continue to pursue green energy policies that unnecessarily drive up the cost for consumers and have punitive impacts on our broader economy.”
With the provincial election less than a year away and the Ontario Liberals taking heat on rising hydro rates, many players in the power sector were interested to hear Hudak’s vision for energy.
The PC leader said he would hit the green light on new nuclear and water power.
Huday said he would also put a consumer advocate into the Ontario Energy Board — the body that regulates the province’s electricity and natural gas sectors in the public interest.
While he isn’t dismissing renewable energy, Hudak said wind and solar power can’t continue to be purchased at guaranteed prices well above the market rate for electricity.
The Liberal policy on green energy is driving up hydro prices, he said.
Hudak said one of the measures most needed in electricity is consistency and long-range planning, criticizing both the Liberals who just pulled the plug on the Oakville power plant after inking a deal and on his own government under former Conservative Premier Ernie Eves who pulled a “180” when it abruptly abandoned its own plans for the electricity sector.
Energy Minister Brad Duguid said Hudak’s vision is backward-looking and would return the province to a time when it was forced to rely on dirty sources of energy.
It’s the Liberal government’s commitment to finding additional cleaner sources of energy that has given the system the option of nixing the Oakville plant, which is no longer needed to meet electricity demand, he said.
“With (Hudak’s) policies, there’s no question there would have to be a gas plant in Oakville because we wouldn’t have the flexibility to consider any other options,” Duguid said, predicting the Tory leader’s views on hydro would kill many of the 50,000 jobs that the Liberal’s Green Energy Act is creating.