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Hydro Cash Grab to Continue: Liberals Hide Suspicious Report on Energy Sector Pensions

(August 8, 2014) It always irks me to hear this Liberal government refer to themselves as open and transparent. Plagued by some of the largest spending scandals in Ontario history, I think it’s fair to say that they are far from anything remotely close to these two words.  The latest government-commissioned report on energy sector pensions only reaffirms this point. 


On Friday before the August long weekend, the Kathleen Wynne Liberal government quietly released a four month old government report on hydro pensions that reveals taxpayers are paying almost $5 for every $1 energy sector employees are putting into their pension plans.


The report comes just over one month after the last provincial election when the Liberals made no mention of the findings; in fact, they arrogantly campaigned on the idea of creating an entirely new pension plan, forcing workers and businesses to pay a new jobs tax.


The delay in releasing this report is certainly suspect and in my mind raises questions of continued problems with transparency from a government with an already lousy record of accountability.


The report, written by Jim Leech, Special Advisor to the Ministry of Finance, warns that pension plans at Hydro One, Ontario Power Generation, the Independent Electricity System Operator and the Electrical Safety Authority pose a “significant risk” to electricity prices in Ontario.  He refers to the plans as generous, unsustainable and very costly, noting that the plans are close to the maximum benefits allowed in the province and richer than most of the Broader Public Service. 


Leech found that in 2012, of the $585 million in contributions to the combined plans, only $100 million was contributed by employees. Taxpayers paid the rest.  At Hydro One, employees provided 19 percent of contributions in their pension plan; the crown agency paid 81 percent.  At Ontario Power Generation employees contributed 24 percent; the employer paid 76 percent and so on.


One of the reasons people in Ontario are facing challenges building their savings accounts is because they are paying for unaffordable energy costs and bloated energy agency pensions. For the Liberals to allow a gold plated pension for a few on the backs of hardworking taxpayers is irresponsible, particularly since they vowed to reform this exact problem in their 2012 provincial budget.


Leech’s recommendation to the government is for the pension plans to move toward an equal (50/50) cost-sharing goal. This is the same commitment the Liberals made themselves in their 2012 budget. It is also the same recommendation Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk made to the government in December when she released her 2013 Annual Report.


What have the Liberals done in two years? The answer is nothing.  It is time the government stops ordering costly reports and starts doing their job to fix this problem.


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