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Liberal incompetence hurts us all

(March 13, 2017) For years now the Ontario PC Caucus has called on the Liberals to do something about our province's skyrocketing electricity rates.


On numerous occasions, our members have written the government and asked that they deal with the problem.


And dozens of times during Question Period, our Leader Patrick Brown and other members, myself included, have demanded the Liberals take action.


But each time we raised the issue the government stood firm.


The Liberals wouldn't admit that high electricity rates are hurting families, stifling economic growth, and killing jobs.


It was only recently, when polling revealed how tremendously unpopular the Liberals are, that they decided to act.


The fact is they are motivated by political survival, especially with a provincial election looming next year.


So, what's their plan to deal with the electricity fiasco?


They are slashing hydro rates by 17 per cent, starting in June.


Is this a good thing?


Of course it is.


Our party supports rate relief because Ontarians are suffering.


But let's be clear, this relief is necessary because Kathleen Wynne is obsessed with signing contracts for solar and wind power that we don't need.


In order to provide rate relief, the Liberals are refinancing the contracts they have with electricity generators.


Through the new arrangement, the province will pay the contracts over a longer period, in this case 30 years.


The Liberals say the cost of refinancing is an additional $25-billion, but we suspect the real number is billions more. And it is Ontario taxpayers who will pay these additional interest costs.


In an effort to determine the real cost of the Liberal plan, PC Leader Patrick Brown has written the province's budget watchdog and asked for a full costing.


Sadly, whatever the real number is, it will take Ontarians decades to pay off the refinancing.


People like to accuse our party of not having an electricity plan but that's not true.


For starters, we'd put an end to the signing of new wind and solar contracts. We'd also try to get Ontario out of the contracts that are already in the pipeline.


And, we'd give back municipal planning authority over so-called green energy proposals. That's something I tried to do in a Private Member's Resolution but the Liberals used their majority and shot it down.


Another thing we'd do is rein in exorbitant salaries at Hydro One and the Ontario Power Generation Corporation.


And let me be crystal clear: we'd stop the sale of Hydro One.


These are just some of our plans.


And very soon we'll be telling you more about what we have in mind.


Now, I want to shift gears and talk about another important announcement.


The other day the Liberals unveiled the details of their Ontario Small Cidery and Small Distillery Support Program.


According to a government news release, "the program will provide eligible businesses with support to grow and scale up their operations, including hiring more staff and purchasing new equipment."


The province says it will invest $4.9-million over three years for the program.


On sales, eligible cideries will receive up to 74 cents per litre and eligible distillers will receive up to $4.42 per litre, to a maximum of $220,000 per year, per producer.


This is good news.


It's not often in opposition that we get this type of response to our questions.


Just two weeks earlier, I asked the Minister of Finance why craft distillers in Simcoe-Grey and across the province are being penalized through much higher rates of taxation than craft brewers and wineries.


So, this latest announcement is helpful to our cideries and craft distillers. But the government needs to go another step further.


As I noted to the minister during my question, British Columbia tax regulations for cideries and small distillers should be implemented here.


B.C. allows the first 50,000 litres to be sold tax-free.


If B.C. can do it and support B.C. farmers, and B.C. products, why can't the same happen in Ontario?


Jim Wilson is the Progressive Conservative MPP for Simcoe-Grey.


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