Auditor General’s report on Hydro raises a storm

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Last week’s Auditor General’s report, showing that Ontario families will pay an extra $4 billion as a result of the Liberal Government’s moves to cut hydro costs for Ontario residents by 25%, has led Ontario PC leader, Patrick Brown, to call on Ontario’s Energy Minister to resign.

“The Auditor General’s report was a scathing indictment of Liberal political corruption and their contempt for the people of Ontario,” he said during Question Period last week.

According to the Auditor General, the Liberal’s plan was “needlessly complex,” and its true cost was being hidden by the government by “improperly” accounting methods.

The $4 billion which the Auditor General says it will cost the taxpayers of Ontario comes from the high interest payments on loans which Ontario Power Generation will have to pay on the loans taken out to cover the 25% reduction in hydro prices to the average customer in the province. The report also suggests that this plan will, in fact, lead to higher prices in the future, as OPG raises costs to cover the $4 billion interest payments.

Ontario’s hydro costs have always been outrageously out of line with prices in other parts of the country, and rose substantially after the old Hydro Ontario was broken up under the Harris Government in 1999. The current Hydro One corporation is busy with a public relations campaign to convince customers that they are doing great things to make electricity more affordable for Ontarians. The letter delivered to every home in the province last week is part of that campaign.

Signed by the president and CEO, Mayo Schmidt, it claims credit for convincing the Wynne Government to introduce the Fair Hydro Plan, which, it claims, will result in “an average reduction of 31 per cent on [the] monthly bill”. Other life-changing initiatives include a “mobile-friendly”web site, offering “streamlined self-serve features to make it easier to manage your account on-line”. This removes the “cheque is in the mail” excuse for all of us. And there will be a redesigned bill arriving in the mail by the end of this year, making it easier to read how much you owe, and what is being charged on your account, other than actual electricity.

We should all be grateful that our electricity is going down in price, if it really is. The Auditor General’s report seems to suggest that we’re all getting fooled again.

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