The Woolwich Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

HER POP­U­LAR­ITY PLUM­MET­ING TO un­plumbed depths, Kath­leen Wynne is in full-out des­per­a­tion mode. Al­most as des­per­ate as the party that would love to dump her but have no bet­ter op­tions to roll out.

With that in mind, the Lib­er­als are in dam­age-con­trol mode, most no­tably on its mis­man­age­ment of On­tario’s elec­tric­ity file and in­creased deficits to of­fer short-term cuts to hy­dro bills.

From cor­rupt prac­tices in hand­ing out con­tracts to sky­rock­et­ing rates, ev­ery­thing Wynne touches turns to ma­nure.

The fail­ures have been well doc­u­mented. The sweet­heart deals to re­new­able en­ergy pro­duc­ers. The gas plant scan­dals. The sell­ing off pub­lic as­sets to cover for fis­cal mis­man­age­ment. The pay­outs to par­ti­sans and pub­lic-sec­tor unions. The con­tin­ued build­ing of new, ex­pen­sive ca­pac­ity even while sell­ing-off at a loss the un­needed power. The smart me­ter fi­asco.

On­tar­i­ans are pay­ing ever-in­creas­ing rates with lit­tle to show for it. And there’s no end in sight, which bodes ill for both fu­ture bills and the over­all eco­nomic im­pact.

As with just about ev­ery pol­icy, the Lib­er­als are guilty of poor de­ci­sion mak­ing, largely the re­sult of par­ti­san think­ing – a mix­ture of cor­rup­tion and in­com­pe­tence.

Giv­ing lip ser­vice to the en­vi­ron­ment – the im­pe­tus for the Green En­ergy Act and car­bon tax schemes – the govern­ment has done lit­tle to pro­mote ac­tual con­ser­va­tion, in­stead mak­ing poli­cies to boost its own cof­fers while work­ing against the pub­lic in­ter­est. By do­ing so, it’s also squan­dered a golden op­por­tu­nity to re­duce con­sump­tion, ac­tu­ally lower bills and pro­vide an eco­nomic boost.

The cheap­est and most ef­fi­cient en­ergy is the en­ergy you don’t need. There’s a solid ar­gu­ment to be made, backed up with numbers, that it would be cheaper and much more ben­e­fi­cial for gov­ern­ments and util­i­ties to pay for home retrofits, in­clud­ing buy­ing new en­ergy-ef­fi­cient ap­pli­ances, than to in­vest in du­bi­ous megapro­jects such as nu­clear re­ac­tors.

As op­posed to mouthing plat­i­tudes, the govern­ment could have com­mit­ted to mar­ket-driven rea­sons for go­ing green. There are real cost sav­ings in retrofitting homes and go­ing with new tech­nolo­gies. As a bonus, the work pro­vides far more em­ploy­ment (for trades­peo­ple, sup­pli­ers and the like) and spreads the wealth around to ev­ery com­mu­nity, rather than putting it in the hands of a few.

How’s that for real stim­u­lus spend­ing? Sounds like a much bet­ter idea than bail­ing out banks and prof­li­gate cor­po­ra­tions.

That we’re con­sum­ing less elec­tric­ity to­day – and the trend is ex­pected to con­tinue – has less to do with con­ser­va­tion than it has with de­clines in the econ­omy.

What we do know is that de­mand has been fall­ing for a while, even as prices sky­rocket. Ide­ally, fall­ing de­mand and in­ex­pen­sive con­ser­va­tion mea­sures would off­set or elim­i­nate the need for costly new gen­er­at­ing sta­tions, likely nu­clear given the com­bi­na­tion of bu­reau­cratic malaise and lob­by­ing of of­fi­cials.

On­tario is al­ready sinking bil­lions in re­fur­bish­ing its stock of nu­clear re­ac­tors even as de­clin­ing de­mand forces it to sell sur­plus power at a loss. Spend­ing yet more on cap­i­tal-in­ten­sive nu­clear plants would lock the prov­ince into a sit­u­a­tion with the po­ten­tial of even more sur­plus power, with the need to use that elec­tric­ity un­der­min­ing con­ser­va­tion ef­forts.

Tak­ing a new tack on elec­tric­ity, in­clud­ing much lower rates down the road, first means jet­ti­son­ing the cur­rent govern­ment that fails On­tar­i­ans with ev­ery step it takes.

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