Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday March 10, 2017
All parties should lay out their plan for hydro
Next year’s provincial election could be called the hydro vote. Of course there other issues — the length of the Liberal party’s rule, the economy, and others. But nothing resonates with Ontarians right now like hydro rates.
It’s understandable, even though some of the hyperbole being bandied about is over the top. So is laying all the blame at the feet of the Liberals when the Progressive Conservatives also played a role in setting the table.
But whether you agree with the weight being attached to energy as an election issue or not, it is what people are talking about. That’s why the Liberals have finally moved on plans to reduce bills. According to Alectra Utilities, Hamilton ratepayers will get a bigger than average break on their bills, with residential fees set to drop 27 per cent, and small business rates 28 per cent. That’s not insignificant.
The Liberal plan, though, is something like remortgaging your house. The money will be paid back over a longer period of time, so the resulting interest payments will end up costing more. Does that really matter to people if their bills go down? We’ll see.
NDP leader Andrea Horwath won’t be outshone. She has put forward a plan she says will save up to 30 per cent on bills and doesn’t involve remortgaging the house. The plan would allow consumers to opt out of time-of-use pricing, cap profits for private power producers supplying the grid and return Hydro One to full public ownership by buying back shares. This plan will appeal to many, especially since the partial privatization of Hydro One is widely opposed.
But wait, say the Liberals and other skeptics. The money from privatization is being used to fund health and education among other key areas. If that money is used to buy back shares, it will be at the expense of those other priorities. Now the NDP plan doesn’t sound quite so solid.
At least the two parties are putting out (relatively) clear messages. And by getting her party’s oar in the water on the most significant issue of the election, Horwath automatically positions the NDP as a credible alternative, on this matter at least.
Patrick Brown, come out, come out, wherever you are. The Progressive Conservatives have yet to outline in detail what they’ll do on energy. Perhaps because there is still a lot of time left. Perhaps because it’s a sticky issue for them, too. After all, it was Brown’s party that initiated the last attempt to privatize, which blew up in their face. And it’s going to be difficult for a party that believes in privatization to argue for making Hydro One public again. Then again, who would have predicted that the PCs would favour a carbon tax and support a modernized sex education curriculum. So who knows what they might have up their sleeve? They’d be smart to get at least some cards on the table soon though. (Source: Hamilton Spectator Editorial)