Facts Stack Up Against Government Policy
by MPP Jim McDonell
As the government travels across the province handing out taxpayers’ money, the news is not all positive for Ontario’s economic future. The closing of the Siemens wind turbine plant in Tillsonburg, resulting in the loss of 340 good-paying manufacturing jobs, is just the latest plant closing in Ontario. It adds credibility to the findings of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce report that the cumulative impact of high energy costs, burdensome red tape, cap and trade, and high income, payroll, and property taxes have made our province uncompetitive, compelling businesses to move or expand elsewhere. The present government has further squandered its credibility and trustworthiness through a decade of scandals, culminating in two trials this fall on serious charges under the Election Act and the Criminal Code.
While the government tells people how good we have it in Ontario, the stats tell us a different story. Between 2003 and 2014, Ontario’s per capita economic growth was a third and private sector job growth was half of the national average. The Fraser Institute reported that between 2008 and 2016, Ontario’s electricity rates skyrocketed 71 percent — more than double the Canadian average and four times the inflation rate. It’s little wonder that hundreds of thousands of residents, including seniors and people on fixed incomes, are experiencing energy poverty, and having to choose between heating their homes and putting food on the table. The Fraser study says Ontario’s runaway hydro prices are directly linked to the government’s phase-out of coal energy without doing its due diligence, poorly structured long term renewable energy contracts, and other failed policies, such as the expensive power plant cancellations and the bungled smart meter program.
The Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario calculates that Ontario wasted $1 billion in 2016 by flowing water over dams, dumping steam from nuclear power plants, and paying wind turbine owners not to produce electricity. This figure does not include the billions lost in selling excess power at less than it cost to produce. Much of this problem could have been avoided, if the government had done a cost-benefit analysis on the Green Energy Act and listened to their own internal energy experts, who recommended against many of the government’s policies. They continue to ignore independent legislative officers, who warn that their latest temporary 25 percent hydro reduction will cost ratepayers up to $93 billion over the next 32 years. Adding insult to injury, in the same month that the 25% reduction is to be established, Hydro One filed for a $141 increase in rates and announced a $7 billion purchase of a coal-burning American utility. It begs the question, will Ontario ratepayers be on the hook for the plant’s decommissioning and cleanup?
At a recent Finance Committee hearing on Bill 148, Magna International Inc., Canada’s largest auto sector employer issued a blunt criticism of the province’s new labour legislation, saying that for the first time in their 60 year history, they find themselves in the very untenable position of questioning whether they will be able to continue to operate at historical levels in this province. They identified that the changes to workplace rules come on top of uncompetitive hydro rates, cap-and-trade programs, increased payroll and pension costs, and personal income tax rates that are among the highest in the G7 countries.
On a positive note, I want to thank the local advocacy groups who helped our office in a campaign to re-establish a functional assessment centre in Cornwall. Previously, victims of strokes and other brain injuries had to travel to Ottawa or Smiths Falls to complete the specialized driving test required to have their driver’s license returned. The patient was not only required to make this long inconvenient trip, but was also required to conduct the test in an unfamiliar area. We continue to battle the bureaucracy on the 30-business day delay for medically suspended drivers to retrieve their license after final medical approval.
I want to remind the residents of our riding of our second MPP picnic on August 20 at the Morrisburg Dockside Park East, from noon to 2:30 pm. Come on out and enjoy a snack and some good company. I also want to wish everyone a fun and safe rest of the summer.