Opposition is mounting against the Ontario government plans to sell-off the public electrical delivery company, Hydro One

Opposition is mounting against the Ontario government plans to sell-off the public electrical delivery company, Hydro One
Photo Credit: Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada

Sell-off of public utility challenged

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Opposition to sale mounting.

The government of Canada’s most populous province recently announced a plan to sell off a majority share of the province’s public electrical supplier, Hydro One.

The provincial Liberal government under Premier Kathleen Wynn announced in April that they intend to sell off a majority share of the power supplier to private interests.   The sale of 60% of Hydro One is expected to net about $9 billion.

The Liberals say that $5 billion wil go towards paying down massive  debt, and $4 billion will go to other purposes such as improvement of public transit.

Ontario's premier has defended the partial sale of Hydro One, insisting there will be oversight of the electricity utility after the government sells off up to 60 per cent of the operation. Kathleen Wynne was responding to criticism from several provincial oversight agencies that the public would continue to own much of the utility, but not get to exercise much scrutiny over it.
Ontario’s premier has defended the partial sale of Hydro One, insisting there will be oversight of the electricity utility after the government sells off up to 60 per cent of the operation. Kathleen Wynne was responding to criticism from several provincial oversight agencies that the public would continue to own much of the utility, but not get to exercise much scrutiny over it. © The Canadian Press

Critics say it’s foolish to sell off a public utility that generates about $1billion in annual revenues. Others also slam Premier Wynn for not having mentioned anything about the giant sale during the election campaign.

The offices of the provincial Auditor-General, Ombudsman, the information and privacy commissioner, financial accountability officer, integrity commissioner and French language services commissioner, all of whom have oversight functions of public operations, have all come out questioning the wisdom of the sale, saying the ability of the government to oversee operations of a critical service will be severely limited when the government holds a minority stake in the operation.

The Auditor General for example would not be able to conduct performance audits of Hydro One or its subsidiaries, and the Integrity Commissioner would be able to review expense claims to ensure prudent spending of taxpayer monies.

“..hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues from Hydro One will go into the pockets of private investors instead of toward vital public services we depend on” K Miller-

Now a broad coalition called “Keep Hydro Public” has launched a new round of radio and on-line adverts calling on the government to stop the sale.

The government is trying to push through privatization before Ontarians realize it’s happening,” said Katrina Miller, spokesperson for Keep Hydro Public. “Selling off 60 percent of Hydro One will lead to higher electricity costs, less reliable service, and less accountability; and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues from Hydro One will go into the pockets of private investors instead of toward vital public services we depend on.”

Publicly-owned generating projects, like the 1,499 MW Adam Beck II station seen here at Niagara Falls, were the norm until recently. By 2020 it is estimated that private enterprise will account for more than one third of all generation in Canada. (OPG)
Publicly-owned generating projects, like the 1,499 MW Adam Beck II station seen here at Niagara Falls, were the norm until recently. By 2020, it is extimated that private enterprise will account for more than one third of all generation in Canada. © Ontario Power Generation

In a news release, Miller also said, “This is our electricity system – Ontario residents rely on it, we paid for it, and we have a stake in how it is managed. The government is making this decision to sell it off, in haste and largely behind closed doors, without providing Ontario residents a meaningful opportunity to have their voices heard on such a fundamental issue.  Selling off 60 percent of Hydro One will lead to higher electricity costs, less reliable service, and less accountability; and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues from Hydro One will go into the pockets of private investors instead of toward vital public services we depend on.”

The Ontario Energy Board approved Hydro One rate increases which came into effect on May 1, and a “time-of-use” plan with rates scaled according to busy or less busy periods of the day and week.

Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP John Yakabuski said Ontario’s hydro rate is the second highest in Canada, behind PEI, and more than most jurisdictions in the United States,

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