That the Liberals blamed the Harris-Eves government for the 2003 electricity blackout in Ontario is history as is their constant claim that they have fixed what they perceived as a broken and neglected electricity sector. After 8 years in power however, it may be time to review the Liberal track record to determine if they have changed it for the better. To examine their success or failure we should travel back to early 2004 shortly after they came to power and visit Hansard Ontario where the Liberal visions are eloquently spelled out. This is the first chapter of that history and the legacy they will leave our children.
For the first visit we will go to March 22, 2004 and this salvo fired by: Mrs Donna H. Cansfield (Etobicoke Centre):
“The previous NDP and Conservative governments have left our energy sector a disaster. So imagine my surprise when I heard a conversation that took place last Friday on Metro Morning. These are the folk, the NDP, who used Hydro to buy a rain forest in Costa Rica and they cut our lifeline by cutting a lucrative contract to Manitoba.
The Tories as well squandered a North-American-wide economic boom and failed at the same time to renew our generating capacity, and yet I wonder why. I wonder if it's because Mr Tom Long received over $2 million in a contract; Mr Paul Rhodes got more than $800,000; Michael Gourley received more than $4 million; Leslie Noble received more than $300,000; and Jaime Watt received $800,000. Maybe they were too busy signing contracts to keep our lights on.
But better still, the member from Rainy River has taken up hydro hypocrisy. Throughout the election, and for years, the NDP has been demanding that coal-fired plants in Ontario be closed or converted. They even put it in the 2007 pledge for their platform. They wrote the Ontario Clean Air Alliance as well to close all the plants. It was their promise. At least it was until Mr Hampton, the member for Rainy River, cried to keep the coal plants open. He even said he ran on keeping the coal plants open – unbelievable.”
If one examines the hypocrisy behind this statement after having gone through the recent Ontario election it is worth noting that the Atitokan coal-fired generating station has been closed by the Liberals however in order to preserve the seat (held by Liberals in the last 4 Provincial elections) the Long Term Energy Plan launched by Energy Minister Duguid in November 2010 declared that Atitokan would be converted to biomass by 2013 (page 21 of the LTEP). That a conversion of this size has (to the best of this writer's knowledge) never before happened did not deter the directive from Minister Duguid being issued. There are many that would equate this to trying to save a Liberal seat that was seen as very vulnerable because of a planned wind turbine development in that riding along with lost jobs in the forest industry sector caused by expensive electricity.
The other ironic part of MPP Cansfield's remarks relate to the Liberals abandonment of the Mississauga gas plant only two weeks before the recent voting day in order to save two other Liberal seats. The costs of the Atitokan conversion is an unknown as is the cost of cancellation of the Mississauga gas plant. It would appear that it is OK for the Liberals to throw hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money away, if only to ensure they save Liberal seats however, if the NDP or the Conservatives want to save jobs it is not OK!
Later on March 22, 2004 Hansard records this recital by: Mr Kevin Daniel Flynn (Oakville):
“My question is for the Minister of Energy. People in Oakville have been shocked recently by allegations of impropriety at Hydro One. They were troubled to hear that during the term of the previous PC government, people who were well known to be friends of the government were awarded lucrative, untendered contracts. Minister, can you outline to the people and businesses in my riding what process you plan to use to ensure that contracts are awarded in an open and transparent manner, unlike the previous government's method of dealing with contracts?”
The response coming from the then Minister of Energy, the Hon Mr Duncan was:
“The first step we took was to make sure that, unlike the Conservative government, we won't treat Hydro One and OPG like our own private country club; that's ended. Their record on hydroelectricity: no new generation in eight years; a price cap that cost the taxpayers of Ontario $850 million; no renewable electricity in Ontario; no development under your administration. But all the while they had money for their friends and contacts, people who didn't have to go through a tender, people who would work for a year or two and go off and get all kinds of goodies.
Well, those days are over, thank goodness. This government's bringing change to electricity. We're bringing safe, secure, reliable new supply at an affordable, predictable price for the people they ignored for eight long, painful years.”
Once again, in hindsight, the question posed by MPP Flynn and the response from MPP Duncan drip with hypocrisy. Cancellation of the Oakville power plant by Trans Canada in October 2010 was generally seen as a means to save MPP Flynn's Liberal seat in the Legislature. This will again cost the taxpayers and ratepayers of this province untold hundreds of millions of dollars without any benefits other then having to endure a Liberal “majority minority”. One has to wonder if Mr. Hampton was still the leader of the NDP would he be less inclined to side with the Liberals on energy matters then the current leader who has Peter Tabuns, former Executive Director of Greenpeace, as the NDP's Energy Critic?
That MPP Peter Tabuns beat the Liberal Candidate, Ben Chin in a by-election in the Toronto Danforth riding is yet another hypocrisy as Mr. Chin, having lost the election suddenly became an executive with the Ontario Power Authority and the Sunshine List for 2010 indicated he earned $246,000-not bad for a Liberal who lost the election! The Liberals were also busy ensuring that those who drank the global warming kool-aid were also rewarded with Board appointments on the Ontario Power Authority and presumably benefited in other ways for their perceived stewardship on cleaning up Ontario's electricity sector. People like Bruce Lourie, (appointed to the OPA Board and also to the Trillium Foundation's Board) have been able to influence decisions emanating from those taxpayer owned institutions.
Further it remains a mystery if Mr. Lourie, via certain of his “for profit” companies, like Enerquality Corporation, the certification arm of ENERGY STAR (R) or Clean Air Foundation, now Summerhill Group, (market transformation consultancy) specializing in energy conservation and renewable energy. have benefited financially. Summerhill is a for profit, not-for-profit and a charity through its three arms. The for profit end claims the OPA, Ontario Realty Corp and Toronto Hydro as clients. That a good Liberal, John Manley was appointed by the Provincial Liberals in 2003 to conduct the review of OPG, that John Beck of Aecon was appointed the Chairman of the OPA's Board of Directors and the entities that make up Aecon have contributed in excess of $150,000 to the Liberal Party in the last 7 years should be considered co-incidental. The fact that Aecon jointly with Peter Kiewit Sons Co were awarded a $1.7 billion contract for the Lower Mattagami hydropower project should also be considered a co-incidence? That “country club” that Minister Duncan referred to appears to have reappeared but perhaps in a slightly different guise!
The last visit to Hansard on March 22, 2004 has the Hon Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs) saying the following:
“Speaking of growth, we embrace our responsibility to bring forward a plan that will ensure Ontarians have a lasting, reliable supply of clean and affordable electricity.”
Fast forward seven plus years and the electricity sector has more bureaucracy, a bloated infrastructure, hundreds of unreliable wind turbines producing energy when we don't need it, a shrinking publicly owned generator in OPG, a bloated distribution company in the form of Hydro One and commitments to foreign owned companies like Samsung that will extract as much as $100 billion dollars from the ratepayers and taxpayers of Ontario over the next 20 years. To top it off, whoever occupies the Energy Minister's chair has become the reputed “expert” and via dozens of “directives” has politicized what was once a reasonably well run electricity sector that provided low cost electricity and attracted jobs to the province. Now we have high priced electricity that drives jobs out of the province and energy poverty for many who are living on fixed incomes. Where is that “reliable supply of clean and affordable electricity” that Premier McGuinty promised?
That is the legacy that the Provincial Liberal Party have created. There will be more to come on what the McGuinty Liberals have done to the electricity sector in Ontario as we examine their vision and the resulting legacy in more detail!
December 4, 2011