By Chris Thompson, Windsor Star (October 11, 2016) – Privatization of Ontario Hydro is at the root of skyrocketing hydro rates, a public meeting heard Tuesday night.
About 100 people gathered at St. Mary’s Church Hall in Maidstone to listen to former NDP MPP Rosario Marchese, who is now chair with the Citizens Coalition Against Privatization, explain the history of hydro in Ontario and why rates have risen so quickly.
“Prior to 1905 all we had was private hydro,” Marchese told the meeting, which was organized by local NDP MPPs Taras Natyshak (Essex), Percy Hatfield (Windsor-Tecumseh) and Lisa Gretzky (Windsor West).
He said Conservative Premier Sir Adam Beck fought hard for the public ownership of hydro, pushing through 18 referenda before it happened.
“He had the sense that hydro needed to get into public hands at rates people could afford,” Marchese said.
Prior to 1905 hydro was priced at around 10 cents per kilowatt hour, a price that meant only the wealthy could afford it.
“Once it became public, the rates came down,” said Marchese.
Rates remained stable at around four cents per kilowatt hour until 1999, Marchese said, when then-premier Mike Harris decided to divide up and sell off Ontario Hydro.
“In 1999 our system as we knew it disappeared and rates went through the roof,” Marchese said.
The first Liberal McGuinty government campaigned in 2003 promising to put an end to the privatization, but that didn’t happen, Marchese said.
In 1999 rates were at 4.5 cents per kilowatt hour, by 2010 the rate was 8.5 cents per kilowatt hour, and now the peak rate is as high as 30 cents a kilowatt hour.
Marchese said the government has been promising that the Ontario Energy Board will protect consumers, but that hasn’t happened.
“They’re not there to protect us,” said Marchese.
“They haven’t turned down a rate increase yet.”
Natyshak said MPPs’ offices are being inundated with calls.
“Our offices are being bombarded with calls from every sector of our community about hydro rates,” Natyshak said.
Amherstburg resident Cherie Beneteau told the meeting her husband passed away three years ago, she lost her job and she cannot afford to stay in her house.
“I’m going to have to sell my home,” Beneteau said through tears.
“But it needs renovations that I can’t afford because my kids have wrecked it.”
Patrick Hammond told the meeting his bills tell him he has reduced consumption by 12 per cent but his bill has gone up 75 per cent.
“Selling off hydro is like selling off a cow to buy a milking machine,” said Hammond.