See­ing red over hy­dro

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - BY STEVEN WAR­BUR­TON News Staff Mr. Ler­oux said he un­der-

CBC Ra­dio was at Alexan­dria’s Quirky Car­rot early Mon­day morn­ing where it broad­cast two dif­fer­ent seg­ments on Thurs­day’s provin­cial elec­tion, specif­i­cally about the rid­ing of Glen­gar­ryPrescott-Rus­sell.

The first fea­tured a panel of con­stituents talk­ing about one of this elec­tion’s hot but­ton top­ics, hy­dro rates, while the sec­ond fea­tured Lib­eral can­di­date Pierre Ler­oux and NDP can­di­date Bon­nie Jean-Louis ex­chang­ing their views. The PC can­di­date, Amanda Si­mard, did not at­tend. The seg­ments were hosted by Robyn Bres­na­han.

Hy­dro rates

The first por­tion of the show fea­tured North Glen­garry Coun­cil­lor Carma Wil­liams, Steve Beauch­esne of Van­kleek Hill’s Beau’s Brew­ery, and Bob Stinson who owns R&B Trucking in Vars.

Mr. Stinson said that at one point he was pay­ing about $900 per month in hy­dro fees just to op­er­ate his home-based busi­ness. He said he was able to re­duce costs by in­stalling timers, by in­stalling diesel heaters in his trucks, and putting wood­stoves in his home. To­day, he pays about $400 a month. Still, he’d like the govern­ment to stop pay­ing so much money to so­lar and wind farms to pro­duce en­ergy “when we don’t need it.”

He says he’ll sup­port the PCs be­cause he likes how “they man­age the econ­omy as a busi­ness” and that he likes bal­anced bud­gets.

Ms. Wil­liams, who also op­er­ates a mo­bile hair salon, says that one year ago, she was field­ing sev­eral calls from con­cerned res­i­dents who were scared they wouldn’t be able to pay their ris- ing hy­dro rates.

She says de­liv­ery charges con­tinue to be an is­sue. She men­tioned one in­di­vid­ual who would like to rent out some of her prop­er­ties but the dif­fer­ence in de­liv­ery charges be­tween ur­ban and ru­ral ar­eas is so ex­treme that she has to charge more for rent.

She said that hy­dro de­liv­ery charges also wrecks havoc on the town­ship it­self. Ms. Wil­liams re­lated that about 15 per cent of the deficit in­curred by the Glen­garry Sports Palace is di­rectly be­cause of hy­dro de­liv­ery charges.

Ms. Wil­liams did not blame the Lib­er­als for the high rates, say­ing that sev­eral po­lit­i­cal par­ties con­trib­uted to the prob­lem over the years, though she be­lieves vot­ers will blame the Lib­er­als on elec­tion day.

For his part, Mr. Beauch­esne says he’s a Lib­eral sup­porter, though he says his de­ci­sion to sup­port them has lit­tle to do with hy­dro. In­deed, he says Beau’s Brew­ery has been able to re­duce hy­dro costs by us­ing more ef­fi­cient equip­ment and smarter busi­ness prac­tices.

He said that five years ago, it cost about four cents of hy­dro to make one litre of beer. To­day, it’s down to 3.5 cents.

“There are other burn­ing is­sues mostly re­lated to reg­u­la­tion on beer... be­cause that’s go­ing to af­fect the liveli­hood of ev­ery­one that works at Beau’s,” he said.

Mr. Beauch­esne says the Lib­eral govern­ment has done more for craft brew­eries than “any govern­ment has in the past 40 or 50 years. They’ve brought beer into gro­cery stores, in­sisted that a cer­tain per­cent­age of beer on the shelves has to be craft beer. They’ve done a lot for the craft beer in­dus­try.”

He is ner­vous about the PC prom­ise to of­fer “buck-a-beer” – which he says would ex­clude craft brew­eries in favour of “the cheap­est corn-syrupi­est beer you can find.” He’s also un­happy with the NDP’s say­ing it would slow down the im­ple­men­ta­tion of mov­ing beer into gro­cery stores, es­pe­cially since gro­cery stores do a bet­ter job of sell­ing craft beer than the Beer Store or the LCBO.

The can­di­dates

stands vot­ers’ anger over hy­dro rates. The father of three teenaged boys says he’s con­stantly hav­ing to turn off lights in his house in or­der to save on elec­tric­ity. How­ever, he says the Lib­er­als are not the only ones to blame re­gard­ing the hy­dro mess.

“The re­al­ity is if you look back over the last 30 or 40 years, it doesn’t mat­ter if it was a Lib­eral, NDP, or PC govern­ment, no­body thought to the fu­ture,” he said. “No­body thought about re­plac­ing poles or in­fra­struc­ture. All the profit they were mak­ing was to keep the rates ar­ti­fi­cially low.”

He said that the present Lib­eral govern­ment in­her­ited the ag­ing hy­dro in­fra­struc­ture and was forced to deal with the prob­lem.

Mr. Ler­oux also ad­dressed the al­le­ga­tions that the Lib­eral govern­ment’s hy­dro re­bate was, es­sen­tially, just kick­ing the prob­lem down the road to be dealt with by fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

He said it had to be done be­cause On­tar­i­ans were hav­ing a hard time pay­ing hy­dro, though he also noted that the PCs would ex­ac­er­bate the prob­lem even more with its prom­ise to re­duce hy­dro rates by an ad­di­tional 12 per cent.

For her part, Ms. Jean-Louis faced crit­i­cism about the NDP’s pledge to re­duce hy­dro rates by an ad­di­tional 30 per cent by buy­ing back Hy­dro One.

“Crit­ics say buy­ing back Hy­dro One will not af­fect hy­dro rates be­cause Hy­dro One doesn’t set the rates, the On­tario En­ergy Board does,” said Ms. Bres­na­han. “So the logic is flawed.”

Ms. Jean-Louis replied the NDP’s long run view is that On­tar­i­ans never wanted Hy­dro One to be sold and that the peo­ple would be served bet­ter if the util­ity was owned by the govern­ment. She said that a pri­va­tized com­pany would pro­mote “prof­its over peo­ple.”

Both can­di­dates said it’s im­por­tant to in­vest money in in­fra­struc­ture so that the govern­ment doesn’t have to deal with such a prob­lem again.

Lib­eral, NDP can­di­dates de­bate as Tory hope­ful de­clines in­vi­ta­tion to ra­dio show

STEVEN WAR­BUR­TON PHOTO

ON THE AIR: NDP can­di­date Bon­nie Jean-Louis and Lib­eral can­di­date Pierre Ler­oux were at the Quirky Car­rot in Alexan­dria on Mon­day morn­ing to talk about hy­dro rates, and other is­sues, on CBC ra­dio.

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