MPP Wilson's remarks on Ontario's electricity crisis
(September 27, 2016) Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
It's a real privilege to stand in the house today and advocate for the people of Simcoe-Grey.
I say "advocate," because the residents of my riding – just like people in communities all across Ontario – are struggling to pay their electricity bills. They need someone to speak up on their behalf and I'm pleased to do so.
You know Mr. Speaker, I've been here at Queen's Park for 27 years now and this electricity crisis is the number one issue that I hear about in my travels.
Whether I'm in Collingwood running errands, or grabbing a bite to eat at Nan's Restaurant on the main street of Alliston, people tell me they dread finding their electricity bill in the mail when they come home at night.
They come into the house and with great trepidation open the envelope to see what the AMOUNT DUE is for the latest billing cycle.
Recently, I turned to social media and asked people to tell me their stories about what it's like paying their electrical bill.
The response I received was absolutely overwhelming.
Almost from the moment I asked people to tell me what they are dealing with, the replies started coming in.
Nichole MacLaren said – and I quote, "My hydro bill was so high we couldn't afford hydro. [We] had to resort to a generator for power due to being disconnected. Now we are so in debt from trying to keep our generator running we can barely afford food."
Ms. MacLaren notes she is aware of several families in the same situation.
And then there is the comment I received from Ms. Jenny Pilbeam-Harting, who told me: "My last month's bill doubled. We try and conserve where we can, ie., not cooking, turning lights [off] or doing laundry after 7 p.m."
But as Ms. Pilbeam-Harting explained, the cost of electricity still cuts into what she has to spend for other important family needs, such as groceries.
She states – and I'm quoting again here: "It is becoming ridiculous and expensive to live here in Ontario."
Edel Sykora, who used to live in Wasaga Beach, told me about her heartbreaking situation.
She said: "I had to move out of Canada most of the year as I cannot retire on what I get on pension. It's too expensive. I was never unemployed. In fact, I had a small business and paid faithfully my taxes and remunerations."
Lori Murray-Keenan – like so many other Ontarians across this great province – has just taken on a second job to help pay the bills.
"All we do is pay bills and [buy] food and try to get new shoes and clothes for three kids," she told me, adding, "It's a joke living here in Ontario."
Imagine that, Mr. Speaker, someone saying it is a joke living in Ontario.
There was a time when Ontario was the envy of Canada. Well, no more.
Thanks to the Liberal government's flawed energy policies people are really hurting.
These policies are driving away jobs.
Shannuna Jordan tells me her hydro bill was $821 last month, which she says is, "seriously unaffordable."
Well Mr. Speaker, I certainly agree with that. Electricity rates in Ontario are seriously unaffordable indeed.
Adam Hawboldt, like thousands of people in the province, is trying to conserve energy but frustrated by his monthly electricity bill.
"[My] hydro bill is too much. I have nothing on but a well pump, hot water tank, and dryer, as big draws for a family of four."
Ian Chadwick, who lives in Collingwood, tells me: "We try to conserve, to avoid using power during peak periods, to use low-energy appliances and light bulbs, but Hydro One punishes us by cranking the rates up and up and up again. It's frustrating and expensive."
Mr. Chadwick asks a question that has been raised by me and many others in this house on several occasions: "Why does this government allow this abuse?"
Gwen Harvey-Gulley, who lives in Stayner, states: "I am sick of getting $300 a month bills. This has to stop."
I agree with that, Mr. Speaker. And so does every member of my caucus.
Sadly, the Liberals live in a fantasyland and don't seem to care about what people are dealing with. Their solution was to offer a piddly eight percent tax rebate on hydro bills.
The problem is that rates keep going up and so any rebate is soon eaten up. The government needs to come up with a meaningful solution.
The rebate announced a few weeks ago by the Liberals was a desperate attempt to look like they are listening to Ontarians.
Well they aren't listening, Mr. Speaker.
Heather Prosser wrote to tell me the rebate offered by the Wynne government is just a drop in the bucket.
And Mr. Speaker, our municipalities are struggling with these skyrocketing electricity rates as well.
Like many in this house, I attended the Association of Ontario Municipalities (AMO) conference in Windsor.
As members know, this conference takes place each year and draws municipal officials from across the province.
The event is a chance to attend informative seminars, network, and learn about the issues and challenges facing communities in Ontario.
I always enjoy attending the conference as it's a chance to have some insightful, one-on-one discussions with various mayors, councillors and municipal staff.
While I heard about a lot of challenges facing our communities, one matter that came up time and again was the high cost of electricity.
Not long ago Mr. Speaker, Ontario earned the dubious distinction of having the highest hydro rates in North America.
Thanks to 13 years of Liberal scandal, mismanagement and waste, Ontario officially pays the highest residential electricity rates in North America – surpassing tiny Hawaii.
Bank of Montreal chief economist Doug Porter talked about the impact of rising energy prices in a recent interview with Global News.
"It hurts small businesses, it hurts large businesses," he said. "And it reduces their willingness to invest here in the province if one of their core costs is higher than in other nearby regions."
Porter cautioned there will be serious harm to the province's economy if double-digit electricity rate increases continue.
Ross McKitrick, Professor of Economics at the University of Guelph, in a recent guest column to the National Post, wrote about the high cost of electricity in Ontario.
His column carried the headline: Ontario electricity has never been cheaper, but bills have never been higher.
"You may be surprised to learn that electricity is now cheaper to generate in Ontario than it has been for decades," he wrote.
"The wholesale price, called the Hourly Ontario Electricity Price or HOEP, used to bounce between five and eight cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), but over the last decade...it has trended down to below three cents, and on a typical day is now low as two cents per kWh."
McKitrick noted this sounds like great news. But, he added, there is one exception.
He writes: "A hidden tax on Ontario's electricity has pushed the actual purchase price in the opposite direction, to the highest it's ever been. The tax, called the Global Adjustment (GA), is levied on electricity purchases to cover a massive provincial slush fund for green energy, conservation programs, nuclear plant repairs and other central planning boondoggles. As these spending commitments soar, so does the GA."
McKitrick aptly writes that thanks to how the Liberals have structured the electricity system, "costs will keep rising."
He adds the Liberals like to defend their energy policy by saying they did it for the children.
He writes: "These are the same children who are now watching their parents struggle with unaffordable utility bills. And who in a few years will enter the workforce and discover how hard it has become to get full-time jobs amid a shrinking industrial job market."
And so Mr. Speaker, when people such as Cindy Kennedy tell me their monthly hydro bill was more than $800, it's no wonder the future looks bleak.
Deborah Haight says her hydro bill is causing her anxiety and putting her health at risk.
Mr. Speaker, how much longer will Ontario families have to suffer?
How much longer will they have to wait for this government to do something to address electricity rates that do keep going up?
How many more jobs do we have to watch leave the province? Jobs that if they remained would allow people to buy food for their family - pay for shelter, clothing and other important items.
Mr. Speaker, this government is leading Ontario down the path to ruin and it's doing so by forging ahead with its maniacal energy policy.
We can do better in Ontario.
We must do better.
I submit respectfully to this house that the government must take a long walk and come up with a new plan – one that is fiscally responsible yet financially helpful to families.