‘My party is opposed to the majority sale of Hydro One’

Remarks for PC Leader Patrick Brown, Hydro One News Conference (June 1, 2015) – The imminent passage of the budget marks a sad day for Ontario because it sees the people of this province lose control of Hydro One.

Over 100 years ago in 1906, the Ontario Legislature passed the Power Commission Act, establishing what was then called the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario.

It was the vision of Sir Adam Beck – a Conservative minister at the time. It was a ground-breaking act. This company was the first publicly-owned utility in the world.

After construction was finished, the company held a series of demonstrations for the public to show how electricity worked. The first was in Kitchener in 1910. And interestingly, when the electricity was turned on, it lit up a sign that hung over the main street. And that sign said ‘For the People’.

Well, more than a century later, the misguided actions of today’s Liberal government means that Hydro One will no longer be ‘for the people’. Rather, it will be for the majority owners.

Or perhaps, ‘for the friends of the government’.

But not, ‘for the people’. Because Kathleen Wynne and the Liberal Party are not looking out for the peoples’ interests.

My caucus and I do not support the sale of a majority of Hydro One. We believe it is a dangerous move that will not benefit the people of Ontario. Once the government sells a majority of the company, it no longer will have control. And once that control is gone – you can’t get it back.

There are three key points I want to make today about the Liberals’ privatization of Hydro One. First, the secrecy that is associated with this issue. Second, the problems associated with majority ownership not staying in the public realm. And third, the problems – the grave problems – associated with the lack of independent oversight.

The decision to sell Hydro One was made without public input and now, with the government’s recent budget amendment, we find out that the sale will be done in complete secrecy.

No information for the public on who is making offers to purchase it.

No information for the public on the price that’s being offered.

And no information for the public on the conditions attached to the purchase.

This is unbelievable. And, what has happened since the budget was tabled in April – less than 2 months ago – to lead the Liberals to pass this amendment? What are they trying to hide?

This process is being rushed to suit the Liberal government’s own political purposes. It is a fire-sale, plain and simple. Why? Because they have determined they need the money and this is the best way to get it. They are showing they are so desperate to sell that they will rush through a secret process to ensure there are no delays. People don’t trust this government – and they certainly shouldn’t trust them on this.

Secondly, the sale of a majority of Hydro One is a bad policy decision. Whether the government owns 40% or 14% the facts remain the same. It is not a majority stake and they will no longer have control.

The provincial government will no longer be able to control how the province’s energy future evolves. It will no longer have the authority to make decisions that it believes are in the best interest of the people and the province.

If the majority owners want to raise rates because they want to increase their profits, the minority owner – the government – won’t be able to stop them.

With no majority ownership by government, there will be no ability for the government to balance issues based on what is in the public interest. Hydro One is a natural monopoly. People don’t have a choice if they don’t like the service.

Finally, there is the fact that with this privatization there will be no public oversight of Hydro One. And let me be clear. As it is currently written, all public oversight disappears the day the budget passes.

Not when a share is sold.

Not when a majority is sold.

No – as soon as the budget receives Royal Assent.

That is wrong.

Last week, my party put forward a number of amendments that would have kept public oversight of Hydro One until a majority of it was privately owned. The Liberals defeated all of these amendments.

What are they trying to hide?

As long as more than 50% is publicly owned, the public has a right to have its officers look out for its interests.

In the future, we will hear nothing more about excessive billing complaints, such as theOmbudsman reported on last week.

We will have no further investigations into the mess that is the government’s Smart Meter policy.

Nothing. With no public oversight – with no oversight that is independent and has teeth – and a monopoly service, every resident of Ontario is vulnerable and has nowhere else to go.

My party and I aren’t fundamentally opposed to privatization. However, we are opposed to the majority sale of Hydro One and the process the Liberal government has been following.

Because once Hydro One is gone, we’ve lost it forever.

Today, I am launching a website ‘StoptheHydroFireSale.ca’ to encourage all Ontarians to tell the Liberal Government that they oppose this secret sale. Ontarians have to understand what the Liberal government is up to and that Kathleen Wynne is not looking out for their interests.