Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli penned a letter published in yesterday’s National Post, claiming that my November 18 article discussing the implications and roots of Bill 135 (both the legislation and my November 18 column are linked here with a brief additional commentary on the legislation) “disgraces these pages (of the National Post)” with “paranoid hysteria”.
In a nutshell, Bill 135 would empower government to order any consumer to use a government-approved consultant to report to government all of that consumer’s energy and water usage and to produce a conservation plan. Government would be able to publish the consumer’s data.
Minister Chiarelli does not contest any of my facts documenting the new powers the government is granting itself. Rather, the thrust of his argument is that the new energy data subpoena powers government is giving itself will only be used for good purposes. With overflowing confidence in the superiority of central planning he asks, without these subpoena powers “how can we determine the most efficient route to get to tomorrow?”
Ontario’s skyrocketing power rates, ongoing purchases of even more junk generation, power export giveaways, secrecy around amounts paid to generators to not generate, and conservation con programs all demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that this government long ago abandoned caring about “the most efficient route to get to tomorrow”.
Minister Chiarelli’s letter indicates that his government is targeting large building owners and operators for its subpoena powers. He does not respond to my concern that the scope of the legislation would allow government to expand its targets far beyond large buildings. Nor does he respond to my concern that these new subpoena powers might become a platform for new, but so far unannounced, penalties.
I agree with one aspect of the minister’s letter. Bill 135 shifts all major planning, rate making, and decision-making authority away from the OEB and the IESO to the government. The minister says Bill 135 “will enshrine in law a transparent, efficient, and responsive long-term energy planning process.” I didn’t discuss these elements of the bill in my National Post column because it seems to me that all the bill is doing is to codify current practices. Rather than pushing the agencies around behind closed doors, the minister is formally seizing their authority, reducing the OEB and IESO to departments of the Ministry of Energy. The new structure is “transparent” because it disposes with the pretence of agencies independence. It is “efficient” because employees of the Ministry of Energy get paid a fraction of what workers at the OEB and IESO get paid, so there will be a big opportunity for savings in the newly combined energy Politburo. Labeling Bill 135 as “responsive” is the Minister Chiarelli’s way of inviting lobbyists to write cheques for his party’s fundraisers.
For consumers, if you thought red tape was bad already, Bill 135 ushers in a whole new category of government intervention — green tape.