Currently, Ontario homeowners are charged five cents per kilowatt-hour for the first 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity they consume each month, and 5.8 cents above that amount. But that rate will increase to 5.8 cents at the low end and 6.7 cents at the highest after May 1. The lower amount will be paid for consumers who use less than 600 kilowatt-hours during the summer season, from May to October. The threshold increases to 1,000 kilowatt-hours for the winter season of November to April.
Incredibly, this is the second time in less than three years that the McGuinty branch of the Fiberal tree has broken a promise to control electricity rates. Yes, the Fiberals have become so adept at promise breaking, they are now figuring out ways to break previously-broken promises all over again.
This was their electricity pricing promise in the 2003 election: “4.3 cents is the price that we are going to keep on our bills”(McGuinty, scrum, November 18, 2002); and “the price freeze stays until 2006” (McGuinty, Focus Ontario, Global TV, September 20, 2003).
A month after taking office, the Liberals announced the 4.3-cent cap would be removed in April, 2004. They tried to tie the broken promise to Ontario’s finances, but Ontario Hydro’s books and debt have been separate from government finances for two decades.
(Say, did you know it was yours truly who first slapped the moniker “Promise Breakers” on the McGuinty Liberals in the aftermath of the 2003 election? Now you do. (I was working for the PC caucus at the time. Come to think of it, I still am. I mean, I am again.) What’s the point of having a blog if one cannot be immodest once in a while? But then I guess having a blog is kind of being immodest a lot of the time.
No doubt Premier Pinocchio is hoping that raising electricity rates will help him keep demand down and the lights and A/C on until after the October 2007 election, while his energy minister Donna Cansfield scrambles to bring new energy supply on line.
Though it is fair to lay some of the blame for Ontario’s straitened energy supplies at the feet of the Eves government, which in November of 2003 backed off the scheduled electricity market opening, it was McGuinty who promised to shut down all of Ontario’s coal-fired power plants – approximately one-quarter of Ontario’s supply – by 2007. They have already broken this promise; now they say the last coal plant will not close until 2009. (The Eves government’s schedule for shutting down coal power was a more realistic 2015.)
Regardless, when people’s air conditioners sputter to a stop in July, they won’t be blaming Ernie Eves; they’ll be blaming a Liberal government that’s been in power (no pun intended) for almost three years.
The stated motivation for the coal promise is air quality. Yet at the times that Ontario does not have sufficient supply, it will be importing higher-priced power from U.S. coal plants, whose emissions don’t require a passport to cross lakes Ontario and Erie. This was all foreseeable to anyone capable of dressing himself.
So there you have it: three broken promises, higher prices, and more smog. Another bang-up job by erstwhile strip-mall lawyer McGuinty. No wonder his brother isn’t running for federal leader, while his former education minister Gerard Kennedy left skid marks on the cabinet room floor.
As I have said elsewhere, although many aspects of the Common Sense Revolution have survived the change in government, the next big test will be the election in October 2007. Does “doing what you said you would do” still count? Or does “the cupboard was bare” story still fly? Only time will tell.
If you missed the lowlights of the Fiberals’ March 23rd Budget – the one that was going to win McGuinty as many as two of the three by-elections scheduled for March 30th (they won zero) – check out the Ontario PCs’ Pay More Get Less website.