TORONTO — Today’s Throne Speech at Queen’s Park failed to impress local opposition MPP Jim McDonell, especially a promise by the governing Wynne Liberals to cut the provincial portion of the HST on hydro bills in a late attempt to provide relief to voters unhappy with the financial impact of the Grits’ electricity policies.
Delivered by Ontario Lieutenant-Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell, the Throne Speech opened a new legislative session and followed Premier Kathleen Wynne’s prorogation of the provincial parliament last week. The reboot comes as the premier and her party have struggled in popularity polls this summer, also losing a Scarborough-area by-election in which hydro rates were a reported factor.
McDonell acknowledges the speech’s references to HST rebates on home electricity bills, as well as its pledges for increased childcare spaces, health spending and infrastructure. But he derides these promises as Liberal “smoke and mirrors” in a press release.
“They destroyed Ontarians’ access to affordable local childcare with their ill-advised Bill 10 reform, making their promise of extra childcare hollow,” observes the Tory MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry.
He describes the announced tax relief scheme for hydro — involving a rebate of the eight percent provincial portion of the HST — as “half measures” that “tinker at the edges of the problem.” The unaddressed root causes of rising electricity costs, he says, are “over-payment for unneeded energy, deliberate disdain for expert advice in the energy sector and spectacular waste at Hydro One.”
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On the health-care and infrastructure files, the MPP asserts that Ontarians “have seen their access to services such as physiotherapy and family doctors cut, long-term care services are insufficient to meet growing demand while hospitals have laid off nurses and closed beds due to stagnant funding.
“The government’s infrastructure spending plans have been re-announced for years on end and are dependent on the sell-off of key, profitable government assets such as Hydro One — this is not a way to govern a province.”
Recent statements by the Government spoke of electricity rates as an “urgent issue,” McDonell observes, adding, “It’s urgent only when the Liberals lose seats over it, as they did in Scarborough-Rouge River.”
“Ontarians have been subject to skyrocketing electricity bill costs for years but their complaints fell on deaf ears. When the Auditor-General revealed last fall that the Liberal government’s energy policies had been enacted against the advice of independent government agencies such as the OEB and IESO, they simply changed the legislation this spring to exclude experts’ ability to comment on future policies altogether.
“The Government continues to authorize new, unneeded generation from over-paid wind and solar industrial suppliers, driving extra charges on our hydro bills even higher. After the broken promises, scandals, waste and OPP investigations in her office, does Premier Wynne really expect Ontarians to trust her with reforming the energy file?”