Green Energy Scores Direct Hit on Ontario Democracy

The ugliest aspect of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEA), the aspect most likely to cause lasting harm to future generations, is the new Section 26 injected by the GEA into the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) Act. A previous comment on this aspect of the GEA is here.

The GEA empowered the government to order the OEB around in many ways. Under the new Section 26 of the OEB Act, the Ontario government empowered itself to order the OEB to collect payments — called “assessments” — from targeted and captive energy consumers (gas and electricity) to pay for government programs directly administered by the Ministry of Energy. McGuinty’s marketing plan to facilitate this expansion of governmental powers packaged the new “assessments” with programs to promote home energy savings and solar heating.

Circumventing the foundation block of our democratic traditions, approval of these “assessments” does not require the approval of the legislature. The golden thread connecting the Magna Carta through to Canada’s current Constitution Act Section 54 requires that a bill levying a tax must originate in the House of Commons. The GEA breaks that thread.

On December 8, the non-independent OEB issued its decision in the case EB-2010-0184. The case was lead by the Consumers Council of Canada (CCC) and Aubrey LeBlanc, a member of the CCC’s board. The case questioned the constitutionality of the government’s new authority to collect the “assessments”, alleging that the “assessments” are really taxes and that taxes must be approved by the legislature.

Conveniently for the government, the non-independent OEB found that a Section 26 assessment is not a tax but a “regulatory charge”. The way is now open government to expand spending without democratic oversight whenever it wants and with no apparent limit on the amount you will pay.

The CCC and Aubrey LeBlanc deserve full credit for their efforts to protect the rights of Ontario citizens.


Supplemental note (December 13 am)

Intervenors attacking the constitutionality of the “assessments” sought from the OEB a definition of regulation. The significance of this definition would be to provide guidance on what future assessments could be identifiable as regulatory charges and what assessments could not be so identified. The OEB’s decision does not create a clear boundary around what constitutes a regulatory charge, opening the flood gates to future government spending.

Here is a link to a Toronto Star article on the OEB decision.



One Comment

  1. Now we know this is a violation of the Magna Carta, we’d better take this matter up in Federal Court. Eric

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