Opinion

Provincial Liberals' energy policies beyond disastrous - Yak

By MPP John Yakabuski

Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski

Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski

It's not news but as I've previously stated, the Liberal government dipped into your pocket once again, raising electricity rates on May 1st. The on-peak rate now stands at 18 cents per kWh compared to 4.3 cents when the Liberals came into office in 2003. I think it is more than safe to say that no line item in your household or small-business budget has risen faster than the rate of electricity. Moreover, Finance Minister Charles Sousa had the audacity to state in the legislature that hydro rates were actually coming down.

While I get calls about the skyrocketing increases to hydro rates each-and-every week, the week the rates went up I had two interesting exchanges with constituents. One was with a gentleman who stated, categorically, that the price of electricity was literally tearing families apart in this province. I also spoke with a woman who volunteers at the Eganville Food Bank who stated that usage was up 30 per cent and that they actually ran out of food the previous month. She further stated that when they inquired as to why people were using the food bank, the overwhelming response by recipients was that their options were either getting their hydro cut off, or paying their bill and relying on the food bank.

As if people weren't hurting enough, the minister of the environment and climate change, Glen Murray, took some more outlandish positions over the past number of weeks. He recently stated that as part of their cap-and-trade scheme and climate change plan he would: give every building in the province an energy retrofit, set aggressive targets to have 1.7 million electric cars on the road by 2024, and phase out natural gas in the province.

Let's start with his plan to retrofit every single building in the province of Ontario. You have to wonder where someone's thinking is with a statement such as that. Does he even have any idea how many buildings there are in the province? The cost of retrofitting every one of them would not be in the billions, but in the tens to hundreds of billions.

On the issue of electric vehicles, he obviously has not spent much time in rural Ontario to see how far people have to drive on a daily basis. Auto industry spokespeople, in a polite way, essentially said that the minister was out to lunch; his targets didn't even begin to meet the test of plausibility as 2024 is fewer than eight years away and Ontario currently has only between 5,000 to 6,000 electric cars on the road.

Towards the end of May, in a leaked cabinet document, Glen Murray stated that Ontario would be phasing out natural gas as an energy source. Additionally, people wouldn't be able to heat their homes with it. Once again, he must fail to recognize that 76 per cent of Ontario's heating comes from natural gas. We also have 19 gas-fired power plants with a capacity of around 10,000 MW. If you phase out natural gas under his plan, you would have to heat with electricity or some other non-fossil fuel source. According to well-respected people in the energy sector, Ontario would need an additional 80,000 MW of capacity - it would basically mean tripling what we have today.

Where does Glen Murray think we will get that extra capacity? He wants to shut down nuclear and natural gas. What's left? Does he expect to get it from wind turbines that only operate 20 to 30 per cent of the time and need to be backed up by a reliable source? Given that we already have among the highest prices for electricity, how high do you think hydro prices would be if Glen Murray had his way?

The one good thing about announcements from Glen Murray is that they are quickly followed by a reversal of some sort when it is pointed out to him by the Opposition and stakeholders in the industry, that little of what he says makes sense.

Minister Murray made many of these announcements in a speech to the Empire Club laying out details about his climate change plan. He finished his speech with these words: "So let's have some courage. Let's get up tomorrow and realize that we're living in a different world."

If referring to himself, truer words were never spoken.

John Yakabuski of the Ontario PC Party is the MPP for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke.