September 22, 2016
Miss Monique Taylor: I rise today on behalf of the people of Hamilton Mountain, who have yet to be given any substantial relief for their rising energy costs by this Liberal government.
With the catastrophic and reckless sale of Hydro One looming, I think most Ontarians are wondering just who this Liberal government stands for. Certainly they are not concerned with the families that have been calling my constituency office in desperate need of help.
In my riding, one family with a child who has a complex medical condition requires life-saving energy use. They need use of an oxygen tank, a feeding pump, constant use of air conditioning for a respiratory condition, and many, many other medical supports that use excessive amounts of energy.
Over the past two months, this family’s hydro bill has doubled, to over $1,100. Thanks to the work of my constituency staff, last week this family found a bit of relief from our local utility company, but this does absolutely nothing to get them back the thousands of dollars that they have spent on life-saving energy expenditures and the emotional and financial strain that they have experienced. And it does nothing to save them from the inevitable rising costs of hydro that they have yet to face.
This Liberal government needs to start caring about the challenges that Ontario families are facing today and stop the sale of Hydro One.
June 2, 2016
Miss Monique Taylor: I’m pleased to have a few moments. I will be getting up on my portion of the debate shortly after the member finishes up his own portion.
It’s been lively in here already this morning. That’s because this is a hot topic in the province of Ontario. The people of my riding and, quite frankly, people wherever I travel within this province—this is one of the first issues out of their mouths: the price of hydro in the province of Ontario and the concerns that brings upon a family.
The members talked about blackouts that happened in 2002. Well, we have blackouts that are happening today. They may not be off-the-grid blackouts, but they’re blackouts because people can’t afford to pay their bills. That’s a concern. When we talk about dollars and the costs that go into producing a hydro system in the province of Ontario, how about the wasted dollars that they put into that energy file in this province?
I’ll be happy to go further into those things in my portion of the debate. It’s definitely something that needs to be highlighted in this House. People on the other side of the bench—the government—need to get it. I think these new members—I’m not sure what they talk to their constituents about, but when my constituents come and talk to me, it’s about how they can’t afford any higher hydro costs, that there isn’t any more money in their budget, that they struggle to turn the lights on and they struggle to heat their homes. And it’s not necessarily electric heat. It’s just keeping the lights on, keeping the house warm. Making sure there’s enough food on the table these days is a struggling attempt for many people in this province.
So for the member opposite to be talking about “it costs a lot of money for the energy file,” I think he’d better look at his own back door and see really where the money has been spent on the energy file.
Miss Monique Taylor: I’m pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this bill, the Energy Statute Law Amendment Act, on behalf of the people of Hamilton Mountain, people who, by the way, have a lot to say to me about this government and the way it handles our energy file. They have a lot to say, Speaker, and I have a lot to say, and I have to warn the government now that none of it is going to be positive, as this bill does nothing to make people feel better.
The most common complaint I hear is about the ever-increasing cost of hydro in the province of Ontario. I hear it from families who are furious that their hydro bills are going through the roof. Prices went up by 80% between 2004 and 2014, and they’re still going up. One constituent called to tell me what he had done, which he thought was a very wise approach: conservation. Quite frankly, I agreed with him, thinking that conservation was the right way to go. Then he continued to tell me the rest of his story. He managed to conserve so well that his usage went down to zero kilowatt hours, but he still received a bill for delivery charges. It just infuriated him that he had to pay those charges.
I hear from businesses that tell me about skyrocketing hydro bills and how they’re making it really hard to survive. We know that businesses are failing, thanks to energy costs. When my colleague from Timiskaming–Cochrane spoke to this bill, he told us about businesses in his riding in the north that use a lot of energy, and they actually find it cheaper to run diesel generation than use electricity. That’s incredible. One of the biggest selling points for electric cars these days is their much lower fuel costs, but diesel generators can be cheaper than electricity coming from the grid. What sort of energy system allows this to happen? People are angry about what they have to pay for electricity, and so they should be.
They’re also angry that this government is selling Hydro One, because they know that it will only add to what they have to pay. They know that privatization will mean higher bills than they’re already paying. They know that they didn’t ask for it, and they know that they never gave anyone permission to sell it. After all, Hydro One belongs to the people of Ontario—public not private. But this Liberal government comes along and says, “Too bad. We’re selling it. It’s gone. We’re selling your property.” And they’re allowed to get away with it.
So here we have a public utility that built Ontario over the past 110 years or so and a grid that has spread its tentacles throughout Ontario and facilitated the growth of a manufacturing economy, and was, quite frankly, the envy of the world. But what has this government done with that? Well, let’s listen to what the Auditor General had to say, because she had quite a bit to say about this in her report last year when she spoke about electricity planning in Ontario.
She noted that determining future electricity demands requires a huge amount of technical planning, and that this was reflected in the 2004 amendments to the Electricity Act, which required “the Ontario Power Authority ... to conduct independent planning and prepare an ‘Integrated Power System Plan.’” The Ontario Energy Board was “to review and approve the technical plan” so that the interest of consumers would be protected. That was how electricity planning was supposed to be conducted in Ontario, according to the 2004 amendments.
Sadly, that isn’t the case. As the Auditor General says, “Over the last decade, this power system planning process has essentially broken down, and Ontario’s energy system has not had a technical plan in place for the last 10 years. Operating outside the checks and balances of the legislated planning process, the Ministry of Energy has made a number of decisions about power generation that have resulted in significant costs to electricity consumers.”
She also pointed out that although the OPA developed the technical plans—one in 2007 and one in 2011—neither went forward. Instead, the ministry published its long-term energy plan, a shorter, more policy-oriented document. The Auditor General noted several problems with this plan, what she called their policy plan, and that it had no cost-benefit analysis or other alternatives.
There’s a lack of transparency. Consumers are not being informed of the reasons behind the rising electricity costs. She questioned the stakeholder consultation process, and with good reason: After a two-month consultation process, the ministry couldn’t provide her with a summary of the responses that they received. The plan was released just five days after the consultation period ended. I think that any reasonable person would agree that’s not enough time to digest the consultation and incorporate the input into the plan.
That’s a pattern that we’ve seen over and over and over again with this government. Consultations are no more than window dressing. We saw it earlier this year when the budget was introduced before the legislative committee could do their pre-budget report. Before that report was tabled, the government already had their budget written, so nothing from the people of Ontario whatsoever.
The Auditor General has also pointed out that “the ministry has effectively cut the Ontario Energy Board ... out of the picture.” One of the main reasons, Speaker, as you know, for the OEB is to protect the interests of consumers and to consider the prices and adequacy, reliability and quality of our electricity service. But with no oversight of the power planning system and a very limited oversight of the generation costs, the Auditor General notes that the OEB cannot do what it’s meant to do. That’s a problem, Speaker. The two technical plans that were submitted never made it far enough to get reviewed by the OEB, something the OEB is required to do by legislation from 2004.
The policy plans that the ministry says replace the technical plans are not required by legislation, which also means the OEB is not mandated to review them. The OEB wasn’t consulted at all over the privatization of Hydro One. It’s one of the largest privatizations of a government-owned generation asset in Canada, and the Liberal government sees no benefit in engaging the Ontario Energy Board, a board whose job it is to protect consumers’ interests. That is just more evidence of the unbelievable arrogance of this government.
This arrogance and mismanagement of our hydro system is costing the people of Ontario dearly. Smart meters were supposed to move power consumption from peak times to other times of the day. That didn’t work and it cost us $2 billion. A boondoggle, they call it—$2 billion. Think how that money could have been spent. We are starving our hospitals. We have wait-lists for residential services for people with severe developmental disabilities whose parents are unable to adequately care for them, people struggling to survive on minimal social assistance payments, autistic children over the age of five being denied treatment they were promised, yet we can blow $2 billion on failed smart meter plans. Brilliant.
We dump $1.5 billion in surplus power every year from our electricity market. The Auditor General reported last year that we actually paid $32.6 million between 2009 and 2014 for other jurisdictions to take the power we produced. And let’s not forget the gas plants scandal, Speaker—another billion dollars more down the drain, thanks to this government’s energy file. And how does the government address their abysmal record? By bringing us this bill that puts the legislative requirements in place that actually codify their bad behaviour.
As bad as the past 10 years of electricity policy have been, there has at least been a legislative framework that, if followed, would have prevented some of the worst excesses, but this bill wipes all of that away and gives the minister free rein to bring further havoc to Ontarians. Several respected professionals presented to the committee. By the looks of my time, I’ll have to try to get them in and their quotes and what they said at committee during that time, because there’s definitely a lot to say on this bill and the hurt it does to the people of this province.
Miss Monique Taylor: This has definitely been a lively debate, and I think that just really goes to the heart of the matter, which is what this does to the people of this province, what it does to their pocketbook and what it does to their hydro bill.
I was reminded of another story of a woman who lives on a disability cheque. She’s disabled, through no fault of her own. She lives in a lower-income part of town. She doesn’t turn her heat on. She heats her home by turning her oven on and opening the door of her oven. She wears a lot of sweaters and a lot of socks and a lot of blankets, and she thinks it’s okay that she lives like this. That’s not okay, Speaker. It’s not okay that people in our province live like this, in the city of Hamilton.
Take that farther up north, where the costs are that much higher, where many people are paying for electric heat. How are those people feeling? It’s so much colder.
That’s the crux of this debate. This bill went to committee, and not one amendment was passed—not one amendment. How do you put through an entire bill of this nature, that talks about our energy system in the province of Ontario, and not one amendment could be passed? Why? Because the Liberals know best. It doesn’t matter what file it is; it doesn’t matter what’s happening; the Liberals have the majority and the Liberals win. They have the first say, they have the middle say, they have the final say and that’s it. They don’t want to hear from anybody else and, quite frankly, when they have to hear from somebody else, we have to put up with the heckling and everything else that goes on. My thought is the people of this province. I wish they felt the same.