Are consumers able to get a fair shake from the Ontario Energy Board (OEB)? Every time anyone complains about power rates, the Ontario government leaps to its feet claiming that the OEB is protecting consumers. But, how real is that assurance?
For decades, the OEB has relied on comparisons between Enbridge and Union to assess just and reasonable gas distribution rates. With the merger of their respective parents, how will the OEB be protecting consumers?
In order for a consumer to deal effectively with the Board, one of the most basic ingredients that a concerned consumer needs to know is who to talk to. In an orderly public institution, you can normally turn to the org chart in order to get a sense for how to address your particular issue.
In the case of the OEB, their published org chart dates from more than 19 months ago — February 1, 2015. The OEB’s published chart is obviously and materially in error. Starting on April 11, 2016, I began asking the OEB, through the board secretary, for an update to the org chart. On April 14, a communications person at the board informed me that an updated org chart would be “on the website shortly”.
Today, the Feb 2015 version is all you get.
The situation in Ontario for fuels government controls or influences has become absurdly complex. Often that complexity arises from illegal actions of the government, as documented in several parts of this series including Parts 105 and 106. Another element of the complexity is that major energy institutions are often larded with political cronies, as also documented in this series. Somewhere along the way, the Liberal government, then under Premier McGuinty, started realizing that the complexity of the situation reduced the chances of being held accountable for what it was doing. Power bills became more cluttered with unique-to-Ontario lingo, like the Global Adjustment, the Clean Energy Benefit, and the line loss adjustment. Government directives replaced more stable laws and regulations as governance instruments. Sometimes the government’s strategy has been to not collect sensitive information. For example, no official Ontario government agency even tracks trends in power rates for commercial consumer classes.
The Ontario Energy Board’s decision in late July to conceal the cost of cap and trade in energy delivery rates appears to be consistent with the government’s overall agenda.
Against a backdrop of Ontario government’s engineered opacity in the administration of energy issues, the OEB’s failure to maintain public reports on its organizational structure, even when prompted, raises the question of whether the resulting murkiness is yet another part of you not supposed to know what is going on.
I could not agree more – I just asked the MOECC Regional Enforcement and Operations Branch Manager to send me an organizational chart and he replied that the organizational chart was not available to the public! As you put it, Tom, what am I supposed to not know about, in my case, the chain of command for action on an alleged environmental breach? Where is the transparency here? No failure to maintain a chart here, just a willful decision to keep it out of public view. an arrogant if not totally scandalous way to run a government body…
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