Ontario’s nearly 13-year-old Liberal government announced a slate of new, purportedly consumer-friendly initiatives Monday. In her speech from the throne, the lieutenant governor said Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government would create 100,000 child-care spaces, and drop the provincial share of the harmonized goods and sales tax from home hydro bills.
There would also be targeted incentives aimed at lowering the punishing hydro bills paid by manufacturers — there are still some left, amazingly — and rural residents.
The throne speech, which followed the Liberals’ recent byelection loss of a Toronto riding to the Progressive Conservatives, is clearly aimed at addressing the discontent many Ontarians feel with their government, particularly over basic pocketbook issues. The tone of the speech, on the whole, had a “we-feel-your-pain” vibe. It’s the government, after all. And it’s here to help.
The problem with this Liberal government, though, is how much time it spends fixing problems it created. The hydro file is the clearest example. Under premier Dalton McGuinty, it set out to turn Ontario into a green energy superpower. To do this, it offered virtually unbreakable long-term contracts at prices well above market rates, with the high cost justified by the need to convince Ontarians to take a chance on the new-fangled, expensive technology. The province did succeed in producing plenty of green power, which enabled it to phase out all coal-powered generation.
That’s super. Green energy is lovely; coal is dirty. Cue birdsong and clear, blue skies. The problem, though, is that demand for electricity, thanks to a number of factors, including the province’s manufacturing decline, has left Ontario with more power than it needs.
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