For the second time in as many years, Financial Accountability Officer Stephen LeClair has proven with numbers what the majority of Ontarians know in their hearts: the ongoing privatization of our hydro system is a betrayal. It’s a betrayal of democracy. A betrayal of financial responsibility. And a betrayal of our children.
LeClair’s first salvo came shortly after the Liberals started selling off Hydro One in 2015. Independent and nonpartisan, LeClair calculated that the sale would cost everyday Ontarians $500 million a year. Money that used to go to our schools, hospitals and highways would now go instead to bankers and Bay Street investors. A half billion dollars. Every year. Forever.
LeClair’s latest salvo came this week after he took a careful look at Bill 132, the Liberals’ borrowing scheme to lower hydro rates before the next election. LeClair doesn’t like what he found, and neither should you.
Like taking out a payday loan or making a mortgage payment with your credit card, LeClair says the scheme’s short-term gratification will come at great long-term cost. He calculates that by 2022, hydro rates will be skyrocketing again, jumping between 6 and 10 per cent every year.
You think your wages will be rising that much every year? Me neither. And remember: each percentage point you fall behind, is a percentage point that you’re sending to the bankers and investors profiting off the privatization.
And it’s not just individuals facing these hikes. When factories, small businesses, schools, and hospitals have to spend more on hydro, that’s less they have to spend on their products, their wages, and the services they offer to you, your family, and your community.
What will all those extra rate hikes add up to? Over the following three decades, LeClair calculates that paying back the Liberals’ scheme will drive up the hydro bills you and your children have to pay by at least $21 billion. And that’s with a big emphasis on the “at least.” If the provincial government runs even one deficit during those years, that $21 billion will grow. It could get as high at $48 billion.
Of course, future governments might also want to find ways to offer Ontario residents relief from crushing hydro bills. Bill 132 will lock us into paying back these billions, but some politicians will no doubt be tempted to free up money by cutting public services. That means we’re being locked into 30 years of more school closures, more hospital layoffs, more service cuts, and more privatizations.
If this all leaves you feeling angry and betrayed, you’re not alone.
I spend a lot of time traveling from one end of this province to the other. In arenas and cafes and gas stations, I get to meet all kinds of Ontarians: everyday working people, seniors and students. And these days, they’re feeling angry and betrayed over hydro.
They know the real problem with hydro is privatization.
The problem isn’t the workers. The problem is we’re selling off a system that, for 100 years, allowed the province to prosper under stable and affordable public hydro rates.
The good news is that we can fix the problems with hydro and return to those days of prosperity.
We just have to abandon scams like Bill 132 and return to a fully public hydro system. After all: we built it, we paid for it, we own it!