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Monday, November 22, 2010

Give Me A Break: Dalton McGuinty's Electrical Bait and Switch

The Dalt giveth and the Dalt taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Dalt:

The government will bring in the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit on Jan. 1, giving a 10% break to households, small businesses and farmers but that will be more than offset by an expected 46% increase in the cost of hydro over the next five years.

All homeowners, including those who purchased energy price plans, are eligible for an average saving of about $150 a year from the benefit.

Businesses that use 250,000 kWh a year or less will see a reduction of $1,716 a year, and farms would save about $2,052 a year, the government estimates.

The savings should appear on hydro bills no later than May, and will be retroactive to the start of the year.

Yes, you read that correctly. The government of Ontario will both increase and decrease electricity rates. Politicians do love having it both ways. Why not simply say you decided to increase electricity rates by a lesser percentage? Because by playing this electrified bait and switch, the government sounds like they are doing you a favour.

You might be wondering why, now of all moments, the McGuinty government is deciding to hike rates? Well, part of the reason is an $18.7 billion deficit this year. Another is all that new and wonderful "green energy" that will save Canada from the horrors of global warming:

More than half the rising cost of electricity is due to new “clean green” energy such as wind, solar and water.

“Is it worth $3 billion a year in health costs to keep coal fired generating going?” Duncan said, when questioned about the expense.

Given the efficacy of modern scrubbing technology, yes coal might make a lot of sense. Coal, along with nuclear, is one of the few practical technologies for generating lots of electricity cheaply and consistently. Wind turbines and solar are not going to power a modern economy. What are the health care costs involved in running out of power? What are the economic and social costs of being literally kicked back to the dark ages?

While the Liberals play three card monte with Ontario's future, that stalwart of freedom and common sense (to use an old phrase), Tim Hudak, has risen to the challenge and denounced this Grit chicanery.  Sort of:

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said his party will support this hydro relief but he believes people will see through the McGuinty government's move as blatantly political.

OK. So you know it's a con. You admit it's a con. But you are going along with it anyway? Ladies and gentlemen, the Leader of the Opposition. At one of those crucial moments, when opposition leaders need to live up to their job titles, Tim Hudak caves. In response, the leader of the NDP subsequently demanded that free electricity, as well as weekly chocolate sundae allowances, be made a constitutional right. I exaggerate slightly:

Horwath said the hydro benefit is not a serious attempt to help families with their budgets, but rather a political move to smooth things over with the voters until the next election in 2011.

That's modern Ontario politics in a nutshell. The NDP believes it is the responsibility of the government to help families with their budgets. Which is another way of saying the prudent must subsidize the spendthrift. We are our brothers keeper, no matter if our "brother" is a bum or a louse. No matter as well if a substantial piece of every dollar given to "Ontario families" is siphoned off to the families of Ontario's ministerial mandarins. The Public Service has its own overheads to meet, and so takes its cut of the altruistic action.

In some parallel universe, in which Conservative politicians espoused actual conservative values, like fiscal prudence and minimal and limited government, the proper response to rising electricity costs is to pass it along to the consumer. You pay for what you consume. Call it responsibility. Call it individualism. Call it looking toward the future. It's simply not expecting everyone else to pick up your tab.

In the universe we live in, the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party (emphasis on the adjective) supports subsidizing some people's lifestyles because, well it's what the focus groups tell him to do. The Liberal Party splits the difference between what the Conservatives should be saying, and what will win votes in the next election: Hike rates - which sounds fiscally prudent - but also lower rates - which sounds compassionate - and do both at the same time, so everyone is kept confused until after next fall's provincial election.

Yet the issue is more clouded than the political rhetoric suggests. It's more than just being "fiscally prudent" or "compassionate." Electricity generation and distribution is, for all intents and purposes, a government monopoly. Certain aspects have been contracted out to the private sector, but ultimate control remains with the government. It is not ordinary consumers, and private businessmen, who make the decisions on electricity in Ontario, but the Minister of Energy.

Into this government monopoly, rife with bureaucratic empire building and unionized featherbedding, steps the fashionable platitudes of environmental protection: Wind and solar are "clean" energies. This means they must be favoured over more economical energy sources, so as to relieve the guilty souls of urban Liberal voters. That the cost of such environmentalist moralizing is borne disproportionately by those least able to pay, matters little. Between actually helping the poor - by allowing the market to provide cheap goods and services - and reciting their Green catechisms, the Left and Centre-Left will always side with the latter.

Even the term "clean" energy depends on your perspective. Swallowing up vast sections of Ontario countryside to build solar and wind farms leaves a far bigger footprint than building, or expanding, a handful of nuclear reactors. The electorate, however, frightened by Hollywood and MSM hype, is afraid of nuclear, which is objectively the cleanest and most efficient provider of base load electrical power available.

The words wind and sun are surrounded in the popular culture with a pleasant and hazy aura, so for political reasons the government shovels money into otherwise uneconomical energy projects. A network of subsidy seeking lobbyists and businessmen soon spreads faster, and wider, than the solar panel sprawl itself. The whole corrupt process is risking the availability of secure and affordable energy supply that Ontario, and Canada needs for the future.

The solution to Ontario's electricity needs is not to rate hikes, or cut them. The debate is not between the arbitrary constructs of "clean " and "dirty" energy. To meet the province's energy demand in the years ahead, we need a free and competitive market for both supply and distribution. 


Posted by Richard Anderson on November 22, 2010 | Permalink


"Well, part of the reason is an $18.7 billion deficit this year."

That must be a typo.
Surely they must have an $18.7 billion SURPLUS this year.

They`d have to be out of their minds or at least extremely fiscally irresponsible to be wasting tax dollars on nonsense if they had a deficit.

BTW I think they call him DOLT in Ontario rather than Dalt.

"Definition of DOLT
: a stupid person
— dolt·ish\ˈdōl-tish\ adjective
— dolt·ish·ly adverb
— dolt·ish·ness noun"

Posted by: Pete Pibble | 2010-11-22 8:38:05 AM

Great article Publius!

For the most part, we all seem to recognize that McGuinty and his crew of latter day Robin Hood wannabe's will do anything and say anything to get reelected. AAs such, anything that they say is 99% certain to be a misrepresentation of the truth or more likely a bald face lie.

However, as you rightly point out and I had also referenced on a post earlier today (http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Dalton-McGuinty-Ontario-up-yours/268708801462) the burden of getting an honest message out about what should and will be done to correct this shambles lies squarely at the feet of Mr. Hudak. The question is now whether he will be bold enough and man enough to pick up the ball and run with it?

I believe that if he does then the majority of Ontarions will get behind him, but if he continues to try and side step the issue he will simply put his feet in the same camp as McGuinty of being just another self serving politician.

Pete adams: http://takebackpolitics.blogspot.com

Posted by: Peter Adams | 2010-11-22 2:21:22 PM

Good article except for the praise of nuclear. I too used to favor nuclear but some really good articles by Lawrence Solomon and T. Corcoran pointed out hey reliant on government subsidy they are. There are also legitimate safety worries.

Posted by: Cytotoxic | 2010-11-22 6:03:00 PM

China is putting a new coal fired plant on line averaging one per week. 1.4 billion people that are striving for the same standard of living we presently enjoy.
We 34 MILLION wring our hands with worry that the less than 1% of the world wide pollution we create means we should shiver in the winter and do laundry after midnight to save ever decreasing disposable income.
Time to put the foam at the mouth tree huggers back into their parents basement and tell them to get a job. This stupidity has gone on long enough.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-11-22 6:57:15 PM

At the next election, Ontario must sooo get rid of this Mcguinty guy.

Posted by: klem | 2010-11-26 8:54:04 AM

The only thing is that the alternative to McGuinty is very scary.

Posted by: Bob Peloquin | 2010-11-27 1:27:05 AM

The only thing is that the alternative to McGuinty is very scary.

Posted by: Bob Peloquin | 2010-11-27 1:27:05 AM

How so? You mean there is not a single candidate that will do what is best for the province and stop trying to drag Ontario down to 3rd world status in order to placate all the foam at the mouth tree huggers? Not one that understands the perils of the expanding nanny state to silence the ever increasing number of activists that know what's good for everyone else ?
God help us if that's true.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-11-27 10:38:46 AM

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