Skyrocketing energy prices and the Liberals’ bloated hydro bureaucracy undermine Ontario’s competitiveness, charge the Progressive Conservatives and the NDP.
As the June 12 election campaign entered its second full week, Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne came under fire Monday from both Tory Leader Tim Hudak and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
Hudak said a Conservative government would zap soaring hydro prices by curbing green energy subsidies and cutting the number of electricity mandarins.
The Tory leader said while he could not lower rates, he would rein in increases to help businesses remain in the province.
Horwath said she would eliminate the 8 per cent provincial portion of the 13 per cent HST from hydro bills, which on average would trim about $120 a year. That would be over and above a previously announced $100 rebate.
“I want to talk about a simple achievable step we can take to make life just a little more affordable,” she said in the living room of a Thunder Bay voter, reading from a TelePrompTer.
The NDP plan to remove the provincial portion of the HST – to happen Jan. 1, 2016 – would approximately forego $850 million of revenue by 2018-19.
In Smithville, Tim Hudak said it’s a bit rich for Horwath, whose party propped up the minority Liberals for two years and supported many green energy initiatives, to be complaining about rising power rates.
“They’re really just the great pretenders,” he said Monday.
“They say they care about hydro rates but they voted with the Liberals each and every time. Your hydro bill has gone up $630 a year with the NDP supporting that legislation. Quite frankly, I put $315 of those costs on the backs of Andrea Horwath and the NDP.”
Horwath told the Thunder Bay news conference that after a decade of Liberal reign, Ontario has among the highest electricity bills in Canada.
She said the Liberals are more worried about saving their own political skins than reducing rates, which is why former premier Dalton McGuinty left Ontarians with an up to $1.1-billion tab for cancelling gas-fired power plants in Oakville and Mississauga before the 2011 election.
Both opposition leaders pledged to streamline the number of electricity agencies to cut costs.
Hudak said many energy bureaucrats would be among the 100,000 public servants he would fire in order to control spending.
“We need to pare down that massive hydro bureaucracy. They have 11,000 people in the hydro bureaucracy making ($100,000) a year. Can you believe that? Eleven thousand! Let’s reduce that dramatically and pass on the savings to ratepayers,” he said.
The PC chief said ending the Liberals’ feed-in tariff programs, which pay generators a generous premium for selling wind and solar power back to the grid, would save the economy $20 billion a year in energy costs.
“We’re the only ones on your side. With affordable energy we will create 40,000 jobs, save thousands more and get Ontario working better,” he said at Stanpac, a local packaging company here in his riding of Niagara West-Glanbrook.
In Vaughan, Wynne scoffed at his claim the Tories can help create 40,000 jobs by keeping a lid on electricity prices.
“There’s a lot of fantasy going on there,” she said. “I have no idea how that connects.”
Green energy has created 31,000 jobs in Ontario, Wynne told reporters at a carpenter’s union training facility.
Hudak would turn his back on hydro infrastructure and investment, taking the province to the days of brownouts and blackouts when his Conservatives were last in power, she added.
“He has not laid out how he would . . . keep the system reliable and clean and renewable, nor has he laid out how he will lower those costs.”
Wynne said the Liberals will “take costs out of the system where possible,” such as not building new nuclear power plants.
With files From Rob Ferguson
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