Taking It To The Street


By Susanna Kelley

Susanna KelleyAre Ontario's politicians politicizing the province's energy file?  And if so, what does that mean for the average person in Ontario.

The cuts to our monthly hydro bills promised recently by all three Ontario parties sound like reasonable answers to complaints by a public angry that their family budgets are going awry because of the shaky economy.

So some relief on the family electricity bill doesn't seem like such a big thing to ask.

But will it help the family budget in the long term?

And if not, why are the parties advocating it?

Politics, say many.  There's an election coming in the fall.

Or is this is just the most recent example of the creeping politicization of the energy file by successive governments?

One of Ontario's most knowledgeable and respected energy experts says governments are increasingly putting their hands in what used to be a fairly arms-length process - a distinct change from the days when the old Ontario Hydro figured out how much energy we'd need and then produced it, says Jan Carr.

Mr. Carr should know: he's the former head of Ontario Power Generation, which was set up by the Tories to oversee electricity production after they broke up Ontario Hydro and tried to sell off parts of it to the private sector.

He says politicians are being increasingly influenced by special interest groups:



We should be deciding how much electricity we need and then producing it in the most economical way possible, Mr. Carr says.  

Instead, for political reasons, the politicians are favouring one form of electricity generation over another.  

The Liberal government's Green Energy Act favours renewable sources of energy - wind, solar, hydro.

And now that the private sector is more involved in making electricity, interest groups like the Ontario Waterpower Association (OWA) are running media campaigns to drum up more business.  

Water is considered one of the cleanest, most reliable sources of renewable energy available.  25% of the province's electricity is generated by 200 water-based generating facilities.  Niagara Falls, for example, has stood the province in great stead for almost 100 years, says OWA President Paul Norris:



There are 1000 megawatts of falling water-based facilities currently being developed, and Mr. Norris says there are 5,000 more MW that could be.

Tory leader Tim Hudak's platform calls for more water-generated electricity production.  

But the OWA may be facing an uphill battle.

According to Mr. Carr, much of that 5,000 MW is far north, where there are no roads or transmission lines, and building them will be extremely expensive.

That may still be a reasonable thing to do if and when the 5000 square km Ring of Fire above the Albany River is developed. The area is thought to contain tens of billions worth of chromite, platinum and diamonds.

And it would, as Mr. Norris points out, enable some of the First Nations inhabiting the region to get off the expensive diesel generators they depend on for power.

But Ontario's Energy Minister Brad Duguid doesn't sound like he's about to move towards that any time soon.  He will only say water in the north is a good backup plan:


Still, the fact that interest groups like the OWA feel compelled to run media campaigns to get politicians' attention says something.

And that something is that political pressure, rather than solid reasoning, is deciding our energy future.

Including our monthly energy bills.

Posted date : July 04, 2011
Taking It To The Street
Would Ontario have lost millions of jobs, and would Canadians have to worry about its government secretly spying on them without warrants, if we'd had a truly democratic system?
October 07, 2013
After two years of the gas plant scandal obsession, Susanna Kelley says the voters' real concern - high unemployment - may finally get the attention it deserves
October 02, 2013
Blame Ontario's conflict-ridden, antiquated political donation rules. It's time the system had a major overhaul, writes ONW's Susanna Kelley.
September 24, 2013
Premier Wynne's new transit panel shows a key difference between the two politicians, Howath tells Susanna Kelley. Actions, not endless talk, will differentiate them next election.
September 19, 2013
Firing those who aspire to your job on the eve of a convention where your leadership is shaky, to say the least, smacks of desperation, not strength, says ONW's Susanna Kelley.
September 16, 2013
Firing the Thornhill MPP for taking a housing allowance of nearly $21,000 for a Niagara On The Lake retirement home won't solve Tim Hudak's credibility gap.
September 09, 2013
And Now, A Dramatic Pause: With Kathleen Wynne and Andrea Horwath's pragmatism, the PC's in disarray, and Stephen Harper in pre-election mode, moderate politics is on the horizon for Ontario.
September 03, 2013
Stephen Harper and Rob Ford share the same damage control strategy, it seems: when in trouble, run away. This is leadership? More from ONW's Susanna Kelley.
May 21, 2013
Will all the political maneuvering leading up to Thursday's Ontario budget avert an election? ONW's Susanna Kelley says we may not know for weeks yet.
April 29, 2013
There's much more to the younger Trudeau's campaign than longing for the more optimistic days of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, says ONW's Susanna Kelley.
April 08, 2013
Kathleen Wynne's vision includes ideas from the PCs, NDP, former leadership rivals and others. Will her consensus politics keep her government afloat?
February 20, 2013
With the first solid evidence in that two women are the frontrunners in the Liberal leadership race, all politicos should note the achievement.
January 14, 2013