Wynne’s in the dark on Hydro One

Toronto Sun editorial (May 26, 2015) —Ontario ombudsman Andre Marin’s report into Hydro One’s billing catastrophe could not have been more damning.

He accused the giant public utility of misleading not only his investigators, but the Hydro One board of directors, the energy minister and the Ontario Energy Board, as it tried to sweep customer complaints under the rug.

In his report titled In The Dark released Monday, Marin said he received 10,565 complaints about billing practices at Hydro One, more than for any other investigation in the 40-year history of the ombudsman’s office.

He estimates more than 100,000 of Hydro One’s 1.3 million customers were victimized by overcharging and missing or multiple bills, and an incompetent and uncaring system for handling complaints

In one of many horror stories, Hydro One wrongly took $10,000 from the bank account of a senior citizen in Timmins — leaving him on the hook for overdraft charges — before finally reducing the bill, months later, to $800.

In another, it charged an Ottawa man $11,000 for five years worth of electricity bills he had already paid for, after changing his meter.

It charged an Inglewood man $18,000 for a hydro bill that was actually $56.35, an 84-year-old King Township woman $9,000 for a $640 bill.

And the list goes on and on.

Hydro One responded it has begun or completed work on 64 of Marin’s 65 recommendations, while denying it misled oversight agencies.

But it won’t have to worry about the scrutiny of the ombudsman or any other independent officer of the Ontario legislature, such as the auditor general, for much longer.

That’s because Premier Kathleen Wynne is poised to sell 60% of the provincial electricity distributor to the private sector, as part of a fire sale of public assets to shore up her cash-strapped government.

The Liberals have suggested, absurdly, this will bring down electricity rates, without explaining how.

Logically, such a claim only makes sense if private sector investors are interested in making less money than Hydro One does today, which seems unlikely.

All Wynne and the Liberals appear to be doing is playing for time until they can remove troubled Hydro One from public scrutiny through a fire sale. What a disgrace!