This week at Queen’s Park

During the summer, I heard from many of you that skyrocketing electricity bills continued being a pressing concern and an increasing cause of financial hardship. When we take a look at our hydro bill, we notice that over half of it is likely comprised of charges such as the Global Adjustment, delivery charges, taxes and other fees. The actual rate the utility charges you for every kWh you use is several times more than the market rate at which it was bought from the grid. In the case of Hydro One, this is in part due to unnecessary, ludicrous wind and solar contracts, outrageous executive compensation packages for Hydro One top staff, ignoring government agencies energy policy advice and a culture of waste that brought us the smart meter roll-out and electronic billing fiascos, among others.

Faced with an election loss in a long-held riding just before the Legislature resumed, Premier Wynne decided to prorogue the session and reconvene with a new Throne Speech: an opportunity for the Government to outline its broad agenda for the coming years in a ceremonial setting. The promises made in the Throne Speech should fool no-one, as they are either re-hashes of old promises that haven’t been kept or band-aid solutions for much deeper problems.Take hydro bills for instance. Before the Scarborough-Rouge River by-election loss, hydro rates in the province were not a problem for the Government. Days after the defeat, however, hydro rates are mentioned in the Throne Speech with a promise to take the 8% provincial portion of the HST off electricity bills, at the same time when cap-and-trade is expected to drive up the cost of generating electricity by the same amount per household. Let’s not forget that another unspecified increase in rates is scheduled to be implemented in November 2016. It’s a shell game where the Ontario ratepayer always loses.

Hydro bills are being driven up by over-paying for wind and solar energy we don’t need due to falling demand. We then have to sell this excess to competing jurisdictions at an average price of 2.56 cents – a fraction of the 8.55 cents we paid to buy it. You and I know that buying high and selling low leads to losing money, to the tune of $1 billion a year or more. For Premier Wynne, it is “a profit”.

Other Throne Speech promises included childcare spaces, health spending and infrastructure. Ontarians have heard this before. Bill 10, the Government’s childcare reform, forced many independent daycares to close. Today, the Government wants to undo that mistake with taxpayers’ dollars. Hospital funding has been stagnant for years, forcing budget cuts, bed closures and nursing staff layoffs. Without deep, meaningful reform, the government’s promises ring hollow. Infrastructure spending has been a staple of Government literature since 2012, yet many municipalities and regions have not seen a dime of the money that was promised.  In fact, the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) cut transfers to municipalities by $100 million over the past few years.

In the meantime, our provincial debt surpassed the $300 billion mark during the summer months.  The interest on this debt load will continue to eat deeper into our budget, forcing the Government to cut services in order to make ends meet.  If you faced a $23,000 debt (your per-capita share) with nothing to show for it such as a house or a vehicle, you would adjust your spending immediately and seek relief. Premier Wynne, however, thinks along completely different economic lines. If asked for financial details, she would probably list that under the “assets” heading.

The House has been busy debating the Throne Speech all week and will continue debating it next week as well, and I look forward to bringing local voices to the debate when I have the opportunity to offer my comments. On Monday and Tuesday I will join my PC Caucus colleagues and people from across North America at the International Plowing Match, a tangible demonstration of the importance of innovative, dedicated farming in our communities. Events such as the IPM remind all officials that Ontarians are skilled, hard-working, dedicated, innovative people who will always succeed when allowed to do so. This is my motivation to continue pushing for less regulation and a better business environment for all Ontarians. When good business and good jobs flourish, everyone benefits, including those to whom the Government owes the greatest duty of care.

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