If we may paraphrase King Pyrrhus, a few more acts of “fairness” like the one Premier Kathleen Wynne offered the people of Ontario this week and the province will be undone.
Responding to widespread public anger — and, dare we suggest, plummeting poll numbers? — the premier announced that hydro bills would soon be down by 25 per cent. This includes eight per cent from the previously announced removal of the provincial share of the HST from bills, at an annual cost of $1 billion to the provincial coffers. The remaining 17 per cent, Wynne explained, would largely come from Ontario pushing existing costs out to the future. Long-term contracts for power generation from nuclear and “green” energy providers will now be paid out over 30 years, not 20.
This comes at the price, literally, of paying considerably more for hydro over longer. The added interest costs will ultimately amount, it is estimated, to a whopping $25 billion dollars, a figure that’s large even by the formidable standard set by previous Ontario Liberal catastrophes. A further $2.5 billion will simply be paid out, over three years, from the province’s general revenues — a robbing of the proverbial Peter to pay the provincial Paul.
The premier described these steps, as well as some further tweaks and offsets for vulnerable ratepayers, as fair. Indeed, “fair” was very much her word of the day — it was even written on the little placard that adorned her podium when she made the announcement. “Over time, it will cost a bit more. And it will take longer to pay off. But it is fairer — because it doesn’t ask this generation of hydro customers alone to pay the freight for everyone before and after.”