Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker says he was expecting the Wynne government to spell out in concrete terms how it would fix its wind energy mess and offer a fair share of the gas tax funding at this year’s Good Roads conference.
Instead says Walker, “some 1,200 municipal leaders from rural Ontario heard a lot of blasé and feel-good political-speak from the newly-minted Premier Kathleen Wynne.”
“Councillors came to hear how the new Liberal government under Kathleen Wynne will be different from the old Liberal government under Dalton McGuinty,” Walker says. “However, Premier Wynne failed to face the music on the most controversial issue of local autonomy when she addressed the combined conference of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association and the Ontario Good Roads Association.”
“Many of these leaders come from communities with limited or low levels of economic growth due to the rising hydro rates and manufacturing job losses,” adds Walker, who accompanied local councils to a number of meetings with ministers in an effort to understand their concerns and to support them in their efforts.
“They were hoping to see flexibility over the Green Energy Act, particularly as energy is a critical driver for all things, from heating homes to delivering public services and powering the businesses that create jobs,” Walker says. “Ontario used to offer the lowest energy rates in the country; but soon it will have the highest energy rates in North America. This is simply unacceptable.”
According to Walker, the wind energy subsidies offer a huge benefit to the energy companies that are aggressively pushing ahead with wind power projects; however, Walker says that the associated costs that run into billions of dollars are hiking energy bills paid by hard-pressed households and businesses, both large and small.
“Unfortunately,” Walker says, “It’s a double whammy as businesses look to other regions with lower costs of power to set up shop, resulting in more job losses at home.”
“It’s difficult to do, but taking ownership of her party’s mistakes and admitting that their relationship with rural Ontario has gone bad is part of being a leader. The question is, has Wynne learned from her party’s past mistakes or is she merely going to continue down the same path as her predecessor Dalton McGuinty? Unfortunately her actions suggest the latter.”
To restore the key role for rural and Northern Ontario in a stronger provincial economy, Walker says a PC government would:
– End wind and solar power subsidies and restore local decision making over the placement of industrial wind farms
– Ensure all municipalities get a share of the provincial gas tax so they can maintain local roads and bridges and other infrastructure projects
– Repeal the Far North Act to encourage job creation and economic development in the North
– Fix Ontario’s broken arbitration system that imposes big city wages and benefits agreements on small town circumstances, and
– Ensure the Endangered Species Act adheres to verifiable science, not political science
“My caucus wants to reverse the type of reckless brinksmanship that hurt rural Ontario’s economic growth,” Walker says. “There is a better way. We’re prepared to make the necessary decisions that will help Ontario get out of this debt and jobs crisis and move toward stronger local economies and good jobs for all Ontarians.”
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