Parry Sound North Star
PARRY SOUND – The provincial government has rolled out its long-term plan for electricity and local MPPs aren’t buying.
“The reason they’re calling it 20 years is so they can say to you how little the increase is,” said Progressive Conservative energy critic Vic Fedeli. “They’re planning on absolutely no investment being counted on after the first three years.”
Fedeli states that looking at a five-year plan, electricity rates are going up 68 per cent.
“Under this long-term energy plan we have projected costs on average of over 20 years, because there are 20-year projections done by all the provinces including the province of Ontario and the project is 2.8 per cent,” stated Minister of Energy Bob Chiarelli in a press conference on Dec. 4.
“Why don’t we talk about tomorrow morning? Basically 33 per cent in three years, 68 per cent in five years,” said Fedeli. “Those are the numbers that people should be sitting up and clearing their throats and rubbing their eyes and wondering what the heck happened to the Ontario I grew up in?”
“It seems like a lot of spin from the government,” said Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller. “They’re telling us that prices aren’t going to go up as much as they were before. It’s the same approach that they had to budgeting. Predict a $20 billion deficit and then they’re all happy when they get a $15 billion deficit.”
Miller says of the concerns he hears in his constituency office it is the high price of power that is number one as individuals struggle to pay their energy bills.
But it isn’t just private citizens that are impacted. He received a letter from the manager at Kimberly Clarke’s Huntsville plant waving a red fled, stating that the energy rates are the highest of any of the company’s plants in North America.
“It really puts at risk those 200 good jobs in Huntsville so that is a real concern,” he said.
Chiarelli states that there are industrial support programs in place and that industrial rates in northern Ontario are among the lowest in Canada and lower than 44 American states.
“I hear him in question period talking about how supposedly industrial rates are cheaper but that’s not what Kimberly Clarke is saying and they’re paying their bill,” said Miller.
Chiarelli fielded concerns during the press conference regarding business fleeing across the provincial border for cheaper power.
“The Quebec system is almost exclusively hydro electric and it is a lot cheaper and we will not be able to compete, either with Quebec in terms of cost of energy or with Manitoba with cost of energy,” he said. “Having said that we do a significant amount of hydro which helps to keep our prices down to where they are at the present time. There is no question about the fact that they’re in a much better position than we are here in Ontario.”
Fedeli states industrial subsidies only benefit very large industry.
“It wasn’t much of a benefit for Xstrata Copper, the single largest user of power in all of Ontario. They left Ontario,” he said. “They moved across the border to Quebec for cheaper power.”
Fedeli says most companies do not use enough power to qualify for the industrial subsidies.
Chiarelli told the press that when they took over government 10 years ago there was a deficit of supply, brown outs and a government importing close to $1 billion a year in energy. He says they had lost capacity for generation and transmission, and have invested significantly over the past decade.
“The question of clean, when we achieved government there was 25 per cent of our generation was coal. Dirty, cheap, inexpensive coal,” he said. “The cost of the emissions in terms of healthcare and environmental damage was $4.4 billion a year.”
“None of his spin is going to change the fact that they have bungled the hydro file since day one,” said Fedeli.
Fedeli says the rich subsidy for wind and solar was their biggest mistake.
“The Auditor General told us that the flaw in the Energy Act was that they agreed to buy the wind power whenever it was made,” he said. “They also told us that they did not do a business plan on the Green Energy Act… after they spent billions they discovered, once the wind turbines were up… the wind makes power at night, when we don’t need it.”
Fedeli says last year the province has paid both Quebec and the United States $500 million to take surplus power.
He adds that due to contractual obligations under the Green Energy Act, if the wind does blow during the day it means having to shut down generators at Niagara Falls, a cost of $300 million last year.
On the occasions last year Fedeli said nuclear plants had to vent already made steam at a cost of $80 million.
“That’s a billion dollars and now we have 20 year contacts,” he said. “We’re stuck with that for 20 years.”
An announcement made the same day as the long-term plan showed wind power usage will be increasing from four per cent to 11 per cent.
Chiarelli stated that the 20-year plan was as a result of decisions made, including the decision to not move forward with new nuclear energy, taking $15 billion off the system.
“There are a number of decisions we’ve already made which will remove some of the price pressure,” he said.
He stated that 20-year projections by the National Energy Board showed increases from other provinces such as Alberta at 3.7 per cent, BC is 3 per cent and Manitoba is 3.2 per cent.
“We’re going to continue to work hard to take pressure off prices and to create programs to help people, but again, from a political point of view, I don’t want to miss the opportunity to indicate that both Andrea Horwath and Tim Hudak said that they will not commit to freezing or lowering electricity prices, not withstanding the fact they continue to criticize us.”
Fedeli said the Progressive Conservatives would see the FIT Program cancelled.
“They won’t cancel it because then they would have to admit that it was a massive failure,” he said.
“They can’t cancel it because it would be an admission that they were wrong.”