By the time you read this column the 2015-16 Budget will have passed. The Liberal Government, with its majority, will have ensured that is has. Aside from the fact that the Budget continues to point us in the direction of unsustainable debt, I will speak about one particular section in this column: that is, Schedule Nine dealing with the sale of Hydro One.
Schedule Nine deals with amendments to the Electricity Act including Hydro One and its subsidiaries. We have made it clear (right from the start) to the Government that their proposals for Hydro One were being done in all the wrong ways for all the wrong reasons. It is clear that the Liberals want to do this in a way that guts the provincial assets and allows them to spend the proceeds in any way they see fit. Their plan for selling Hydro One is not based on a belief that selling it would make it more efficient, but simply because they are desperate for money. The Liberals are willing to sell off any assets if there is a market for it.
In Question Period I have asked the Government to remove all aspects of the sale of Hydro One from the Budget Bill because I believe their fire sale plan is not in the best interests of Ontarians. With the Government showing no flexibility, we proposed amendments to the Budget—hoping that they would be accepted. While they would not have solved the issue, they would have made it better for Ontario’s citizens.
Our amendments would have ensured that: one, the Government would have to retain at least 51% ownership; two, that the Government would have to put the proceeds of the sale towards paying down the electricity debt—which currently stands at 27 billion dollars; and three, that any sale would have had to be reviewed by the Auditor General and the Financial Accountability Officer. Sadly, the Liberals voted all the amendments down.
What has been made clear to us since the Budget was tabled is that the people of Ontario agree with us that the sale of Hydro One is not in their best interests and that they are opposed to the sale. It should be made clear that once the towers and transmission lines are sold we’ll never get them back; people have made it clear to me that that is not what they want to happen.
Disgruntled Hydro One customers gathered here on May 13th to voice their displeasure of the Government’s handling of the electricity sector and specifically the billing practices of Hydro One. While they are clearly unhappy with how the corporation is run—rushing to get rid of it is not the answer, making it run better is.
Making matter worse, with the passing of the Budget there is no Ombudsman oversight anymore. All the work that the Ombudsman’s office did to bring the problems to light will be buried. I don’t see how anyone can view that as a positive move. While the passing of the Budget does give the Government the ability to sell shares of Hydro One there is no plan of when or how it will happen. Please let us know how you feel so we can continue to hold their feet to the fire.