Kathleen Wynne must start every day surveying the list of messes bequeathed her by dear departed Dalton, and wondering which to address today.
Power plants. Deficits. OLG. Horse racing. Unions. How’s a premier to get any sleep when she’s still dealing with problems she didn’t even create?
Wynne has been whittling away at the list, in between doing deals with the New Democrats to keep the Liberals in office. On Thursday she put a check mark, or maybe just a third of a check mark, next to one of the most contentious items: windmills.
Dalton McGuinty loved windmills. He signed on wholesale to the idea that wind provides free energy, and that by harnessing it Ontario could save big bucks, save the planet and generate a prime place for itself among global do-gooders.
It’s been a disaster. It’s difficult to find anyone with anything good to say about the program, other than among the corporate opportunists who seized on the rich package of guarantees the government offered to anyone willing sign up for its new religion. None of the assumptions behind it has proven true. The province is paying subsidies to have windmills built, then paying through the nose for the power, then paying customers to take it off their hands. Rural Ontario is up in arms. Even the usual Liberal fan base can no longer feign enthusiasm.
So Wynne is trying to cut the losses. A few weeks ago she rescinded the no-NIMBY clause, which forced municipalities to swallow windmills whether they liked it or not. Now they’ll actually be asked for input, and projects that can’t win local support will not be looked on with enthusiasm.
On Thursday she chopped $3.7 billion off a $9.7 billion deal with Samsung. It will now buy 30% less electricity from Samsung windmills and solar projects than originally intended. This is the second time the much-herald Samsung deal has been amended downward: in 2011 the Liberals cut $327 million from promised payments to the firm, reducing the total to a maximum of $110 million.
It was presented as evidence of the government saving money for taxpayers, as was Thursday’s announcement. “This was the most significant step our province could take … to bend the cost curve for ratepayers,” Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli insisted. The opposition isn’t buying: cutting a third off the project just means Ontarians are still paying two-thirds the price of a bad deal, they noted. Even the NDP isn’t happy, despite the claim the billions being poured into wind projects are intended to create jobs.
“I think what we’ve heard is an admission that the Liberal government’s energy project has been a colossal failure,” New Democrat Jonah Schein complained. “We’ve clearly seen that sweetheart deals with private companies have not delivered good jobs, and they’ve created increased costs.”
McGuinty isn’t sticking around to see his legacy dismantled a piece at a time. Last week he resigned his seat and took himself off into retirement. Wynne was determined to say nice things about him: “He’s done enormous service to the people of Ontario and … it’s been an honour to work with him.”
Yeah, you bet. And it’s probably easier to erase his memory from voters if he’s not still sitting there watching his cookie crumble.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding