After publishing a story Wednesday in which a certain former premier took issue with a certain current premier's recent blaming of said former premier's government for the province's current energy price woes, Village Media received the following statement from Ontario Energy Minister Glenn Thibault.
Thibault tells us the Liberals took Mike Harris' 'dirty, unreliable electricity system' and cleaned it up. He does not mention Kathleen Wynne's pants.
I read with interest a recent piece quoting former Premier Mike Harris, who was quick to criticize all the things Ontario’s new government has done to help low-income Ontarians with the cost of hydro, fight climate change, and invest in jobs in the green energy sector.
It’s truly no surprise to see a conservative leader take these positions. But I was surprised to see Mr. Harris’ claim that he has no responsibility for the repercussions his government had on the current price of electricity.
When our government came to office in 2003, we inherited an electricity system that had been badly neglected under the previous conservative government. As families and business leaders across Ontario remember well, brown outs, black outs, and smog days put our economy and our people at risk.
So we took action. We took a dirty, unreliable electricity system and we made it clean – and one all of us can count on.
We’ve ensured that our province will no longer burn coal to create power, the source of those smog days and were costing us $4.4 billion annually in health care expenses.
That single action made us a North American leader in the fight against climate change and has attracted new industry, creating 42,000 jobs and helping to transition a new era of clean energy.
We also made unprecedented investments in the reliability and strength of the electricity system, building more than 10,000 kilometres of renewed electricity lines, ensuring that manufacturers didn’t have to worry about the supply of electricity arriving at their factories.
Under Mr. Harris’s leadership, we couldn’t take reliable power or clean air for granted.
But what’s truly remarkable about the former premier’s assertions are that he neglects to mention the failed electricity sector restructuring that saddled Ontario families and businesses with $12 billion in stranded hydro debt.
That was a debt that every electricity consumer spent more than a decade paying down through the Debt Retirement Charge. Only last December, when the government removed the charge from residential electricity bills, were we able to fully recover from Mr. Harris’s disastrous energy policies.
As a government we recognize that the cost of unprecedented investments and upgrades to our electricity system can be particularly difficult for families most in need, especially low-income families or seniors on a fixed income.
That’s why we put in place a plan and launched the Ontario Electricity Support Program on January 1, 2016. Together with the removal of the DRC, this program is saving low-income families up to $720 annually.
And we understand that bills can be even harder for families and seniors in rural, remote and northern areas that heat using electricity.
That’s why we increased the monthly Ontario Electricity Support Program benefit these families can access to up to $75 - or almost $1000 annually including the removal of the DRC.
It's also why we provide the Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit, the saveONenergy Home Assistance Program, and the Northern Ontario Energy Credit - which can save families thousands of dollars more annually.
While electricity prices – like the prices for all goods and services – are rising with inflation and to cover the cost of these investments, the good news here in Ontario is that our bills are increasing slower than they are in neighbouring jurisdictions, and slower than we predicted they would in our 2013 Long Term Energy Plan.
And what’s truly remarkable, is that we’ve already done the heavy lifting needed to upgrade our electricity system, while other jurisdictions still rely on dirty coal and aging infrastructure and will have to incur larger costs when they inevitably have to make the change.
What has the opposition done differently?
Given their record, we can only assume they intend to backtrack on our progress and return to burning cheap, dirty coal.
We will not take lessons from the conservatives, considering their history with making short-sighted and devastating decisions for the energy system, something we’ve had to work very hard to fix.
I was appointed Minister of Energy by Premier Wynne to ensure that rural and Northern Ontario voices and issues are central to the focus of the energy sector.
I look forward to hearing from families and businesses about how we can build on our plan for a system that delivers clean and reliable power for all Ontarians and to extend affordability across Ontario.
It’s easy for the opposition to point out negatives, but governing is about making choices. True leadership means having a plan that invests in our future and increases safety for all Ontarians.
Hon. Glenn Thibeault
Minister of Energy