The leader of Ontario’s minority government has resigned in a controversy over electricity. But even as he walks away, the mess he created is getting worse by the day.
Public concern about the gas plant issue is the straw that has brought down the government. McGuinty is trying to blame the opposition for resisting his public sector wage control plan, but that is just a red herring to cover his get away. McGuinty is trying to dodge testifying about the gas fiasco. Bloviating about caring for future generations, his actions are designed to conceal the costs he has imposed on future ratepayers.
Even the most stalwart Liberals must be able to see that if McGuinty has a shred of concern about the future of our province left in him, he will use the vast executive powers he has granted himself, using those powers to bring down a sweeping moratorium on spending any more money or entering into any more commitments on electricity infrastructure.
Ontario’s official electricity cover-ups have been so deep and pervasive, that consumers do not know what we are on the hook for. We don’t even have an official forecast for what we will pay for electricity next year, much less the year after that. We have enough information to know that Ontario will have the highest rates of any jurisdiction in contiguous North America by next year and that the pace of rate increases will accelerate dramatically in 2014 and 2015.
We don’t know how much we must pay for big, big commitments already carved in stone — like the Oakville and Mississauga gas plant moves. With McGuinty’s decision to prorogue the Legislature, the only investigation into what brought the government down is Gas Busters.
To all Gas Busters out there, we have work to do.
The Legislature is not being allowed to work. Citizens must either take up this responsibility or suffer the consequences.
The TransCanada Energy, Oakville and Eastern Power, Mississauga plants had some potential contribution to offer consumers when they were located in the Western GTA. Located on the periphery of the grid, those plants can provide virtually no contribution to consumers. Almost zero. Yet, they will impose billions of dollars of cost over time. If we knew how many billions, we wouldn’t need the Gas Busters series. When all the analysis is complete, we may discover that the recontracted plants, now committed for Sarnia and Kingston, can be cancelled a second time and still reduce the impact on consumers.
Stop the wind turbines, the solar panels, the phoney conservation programs, the transmission “enabler” lines, the gas plants, the nuclear refurbishment deals, the smart grid, the Mattagami expansion, repowering Atikokan GS, gassing Thunder Bay GS, and the East-West Tie. The masses of busy work for bureaucrats going on should stop, including restructuring distribution utilities, merging the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) and the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), and developing “incentive regulation” plans for Crown Corporations.
Ontario ratepayers need qualified independent experts to figure out what elements of our existing commitments provide value and what do not. We need the provincial Auditor General’s help. We need independent teams of transmission engineers. We need economists to measure which conservation programs waste and which win. We need help from gas dispatch planners, nuclear refurbishment engineers, and contract law specialists. All these experts and more must be mandated to operated in an environment of transparency. The objective of their work should be to present and defend a balanced view of the public trust.
The Legislature needs time to change the laws. For starters, we need to restore independence and integrity to the Ontario Energy Board, IESO, and OPA. The Green Energy Act needs to be replaced. We need to bring back real Environmental Assessment. Re-writing the relevant legislation needs a new vision.
Between now and the next election, the people of Ontario need to debate our electricity future. More government ownership or less? How do we mitigate the massive rate impact coming over the next 3 years? How do we retool agencies like the IESO and OPA so that consumers don’t get the worst end of every bargain? Should we have a market for electricity or should government set the price? Should we keep the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit (10% off residential bills paid for by the next generation of taxpayers)?
After the next election, the new government will have to decide all of these issues and more. The quality of the debate that citizens have before the next election will have profound impacts on electricity consumers generations into the future.
(Note to readers: My practice with this post departs from previous practice on this site. With all other posts, they appear exactly or almost exactly as first posted, with any substantive changes noted as postscripts. This post is an ongoing work in progress.)