Liberals ignoring own polling data
By Antonella Artuso
The Toronto Sun (July 30, 2015) – Nearly 75% of Ontarians want Hydro One to remain in public hands, the provincial government’s own polling shows.
A majority of those surveyed said selling off shares of Hydro One to the private sector would send electricity prices higher.
Despite the findings of the Pollara poll, the Kathleen Wynne government is proceeding with a plan to divest a 60% stake in the public utility.
Wynne has called it a difficult decision but has promised to use $4 billion of the proceeds to fund transit and other transportation infrastructure.
In another Pollara survey, 65% of respondents said they are very or somewhat supportive of using money from government assets for this purpose.
The government released the results of polling it commissioned between June 19, 2014, and June 19, 2015, which asked people’s views on key government assets — Hydro One, the LCBO and Ontario Power Generation (OPG).
At the time, the government was trying to determine how to squeeze more money from these corporations to pay for infrastructure.
Despite not being particularly happy with the service they get from Hydro One, most people said they want it to remain a publicly owned entity.
Only 14% said they support private ownership of Hydro One, and 9% said it doesn’t matter.
A small majority (56%) said the LCBO should or probably should remain provincially owned. A quarter of respondents said sell it off and 17% didn’t care.
Most people had a positive impression of the LCBO’s reliability and customer service.
The majority of those quizzed also supported retaining public ownership of OPG.
“The government’s own polling data shows what New Democrats have been hearing from concerned Ontarians in town halls and community meetings across the province,” NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh said in a statement Thursday. “An overwhelming majority of Ontarians — three quarters of all those surveyed — do not want Hydro One sold off to private interests.”
NDP MPP Catherine Fife wrote the Wynne government earlier this week to ask if it had plans to sell any more assets. Singh said the polling shows the government has considered slapping a For Sale sign on LCBO and OPG.
PC John Yakabuski said people understand Hydro One is the “central nervous system” of the electricity grid and should remain in public ownership.
“Kathleen Wynne, she knows that,” Yakabuski said. “The problem is that the Liberals are addicted to spending and they’re using the sale of Hydro One to pay for their habit.”
Under the Liberal plan, the public would keep a 40% share and no private sector investor would be allowed to own more than 10% of Hydro One.
The government anticipates a $9-billion windfall with just over half of the money to be used to pay down electricity system debt.