Darren MacDonald, Soo Today (Jun 22, 2016) — On a recent trip to Sudbury, Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown had some advice for new Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault.
Thibeault was named to the portfolio earlier this month, replacing Bob Chiarelli in the controversial portfolio. During Chiarelli’s tenure, the province partially privatized Hydro One, something the province’s own financial watchdog said was a bad idea.
Brown said the province intends to continue with the next steps of privatization, despite the fact it’s unpopular and will cost taxpayers in the long run.
“If Glenn Thibeault was committed to Northern Ontario, he would stop the fire sale,” Brown said.
“If Glenn Thibeault was committed to Northern Ontario, he’d say that the Green Energy Act is an unmitigated disaster.”
Among other things, the act has seen the province sign contracts with wind and solar produces to buy the energy they produce at a fixed rate. Brown said that has left the province with far more power than it needs.
“We have this giant surplus (of power) that we’re not needing, so we give it away,” he said. “The natural solution would be, I’m not going to sign more contracts. Two months ago, they signed 16 more mega deals. They continue to sign them, they continue to ask for more contracts.
“In what world does it make sense for you to continue to sign them when you don’t need them? And you know who benefits — 99.4 per cent of the wind companies that got these contracts, donated to the Ontario Liberal Party.”
He’d also like to see the Liberals stop pretending there’s no problem, citing a comment Chiarelli made in the Ontario Legislature that rates in the province are relatively low.
“The fact Bob Chiarelli could get up and say that with a straight face, and the fact Glenn could clap for him, applaud him for saying that, for me shows that (the Liberals) just don’t get it,” Brown said.
“So I’m hopeful that Glenn Thibeault has heard the complaints of his residents, and that he won’t continue the ridiculous assertion of his predecessor, that hydro rates are low in Northern Ontario.”
But stopping the sale of Hydro One is the biggest single step he could take, the Tory leader said.
“A $700 million revenue source is going to be gone,” he said. “We’ve sold it at a price that was a steal.
“This is not about the best interest of Ontario. This not about the best interests of families in Northern Ontario. This is about the best interests of the Liberal Party.”
“Glenn Thibeault supports the reckless energy policies of the Wynne Liberals. On the privatization, the fire sale of Hydro One, he proudly supported it. The financial accountability officer says that after two years, we’re going to start losing money on that deal. It’s all about cooking the books for two years.”
In an October interview, Thibeault said revenue from the sale will help fund the Liberal’s infrastructure plans, that will spark economic growth in the province.
“We always respect the reports of our financial accountability officer,” Thibeault said at the time. “But some of the things he didn’t include would be the 100,000 jobs we’re going to be creating per year, over the next 10 years, when we’re creating our infrastructure.”
Finance Minister Charles Sousa has said the sale would raise about $9 billion, of which $5 billion will be used to pay off debt, and $4 billion toward the province’s planned $130-billion investment in infrastructure over the next 10 years.
“The report says what the report says, but we need to move forward to build Ontario up with the infrastructure investments we’re going to be making over the next 10 years,” Thibeault said in October.
But Brown said voters should keep an eye on who really is benefiting.
“The first thing (the Liberals) do is reward the new CEO with a $4 million contract,” he said. “Hydro prices are going to go up — the government’s own estimation is 42 per cent. This Hydro One fire sale will make rates even more expensive.
“And Glenn Thibeault supports that. He supports the compensation of the Hydro One CEO, he supports the fire sale of Hydro One, and they’re continuing to sell it off.”