News from the Park – Northern Ontario Focus, FAO Report

May 29, 2017 @ 08:05

Those of you who follow my News from the Park column weekly or tune into the televised proceedings of the Ontario Legislature will know how frequently I raise the issue that we Northerners sometimes feel slighted or forgotten by the government and their policy makers. You know the old line of reminding southerners that life really does exist north of Barrie. I’m sorry to say that sometimes discourages me to realize there is more truth in this concept than I’d like to imagine. Northern MPPs of all stripes have long shared this sentiment. To be fair, however, if people from rural and Northern Ontario were tasked with running our southern metropolises, we would likely make a mess of things as well. Unfortunately, these southern misconceptions can lead to unintentional alienation of Northerners. Sometimes the services we receive do not adequately reflect the needs of the North. However, that being said, I am happy to say that there may now be a reason for us to have some hope.

Recently NDP MPP John Vanthof introduced a motion to strike a committee of Northern MPPs. No matter what party a member is affiliated with, we can all recognize various commonalities. This new non-partisan committee will look at legislation put forward and report back to the government on how it will impact, positively or negatively, on our northern region. Establishing this committee will allow us to bring about a real understanding of the challenges we face and how government policies and legislation will interact. This Northern committee will enable us to provide a genuine reflection of our needs in the north and hopefully improve understanding and cooperation.  But, while the motion received unanimous assent of all sitting members, it will be up to the government to follow through and make the concept work.

On another note, the selloff of our Hydro One crown asset continues to take centre stage in the Legislature. Just days ago Stephen LeClair, the Financial Accountability Officer of Ontario (FAO) released his report after investigating what the effects of this government’s recent hydro decisions will be. In a nutshell, Kathleen Wynne decided the best way to mask (i.e. not fix) her errors which have already caused astronomical increases to hydro bills for both families and businesses, is to lower the bills by spreading out the cost over an extended period of time. The NDP says this plan will force the next generation to pay for Wynne’s disastrous mistakes to the tune of $40 billion. The FAO report just released now confirms that Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Hydro borrowing scheme will cause Hydro bills to soar. Further, the FAO assess the cost at $45 billion. And if interest rates go up or the province has a deficit budget during the next 30 years, (which is quite likely) that number could balloon as high as $93 billion. Clearly Wynne’s plan is even costlier than feared, and is about saving Liberal seats at the expense of everyone who pays a hydro bill.

The FAO released results of its investigation into the Liberal government’s Fair Hydro Plan Wednesday. The report shows in black and white that after four years of hydro bills rising with inflation, they’ll jump by 6.8 per cent every year. Ontarians will be on the hook billions of dollars for over 30 years.

The NDP has put forward a comprehensive hydro plan that doesn’t rely on borrowing and lowers bills for Ontarians by up to 30%. We will put Hydro One back into public hands and fix our electricity system which has been broken by private power deals signed by this Liberal government and the Conservatives before them. Our hydro plan will bring immediate and sustained long-term relief for people instead of long-term pain and payments.

Michael Mantha is MPP for Algoma-Manitoulin. He is currently the NDP Critic for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation and NDP Critic for Northern Development and Mines. Michael Mantha is currently serving his second consecutive term as MPP for Algoma-Manitoulin. Constituents can reach his constituency office by email at mmantha-co@ndp.on.ca or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.

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