Federal Liberals should bail out stupid Ontario counterparts on northern transmission debacle

I really don’t mean this to sound ugly – but it is about race-based political policy, so I won’t waste too much time prettying it up either.

Brian Hill has produced another report on the Global News site: Ontario hydro customers could pay $650 million to connect remote First Nations communities:

Despite recent promises from the federal government of more than $185 billion in infrastructure spending over the next decade, Ontario electricity customers could soon be on the hook for up to $650 million toward the cost of connecting 16 remote First Nations communities to the province’s electricity grid.

I’ve written on this transmission line, and want to recap here, hopefully as an addendum to Hill’s work, and to demonstrate how stupidly Ontario’s novice Minister of Energy, Glenn Thibeault, proceeded with this project.

A timeline, for context:

1297824433728_original-1
image from National Post

On March 10 the government announced contracts for a number of totally unnecessary renewable energy projects, including one for a wind project unwelcomed by a large majority of Dutton-Dunwich residents. That contract was won based on points received for First Nations participation in the bid -participation largely from northwest reaches of the province.

On June 27th the first Directive from a new Minister Glenn Thibeault to the Ontario Energy Board was to come up with Options for an Appropriate Rate Assistance Program for On-Reserve First Nations Electricity Consumers.

On July 14th Minister Thibeault says high electricity bills in rural Ontario were not a crisis.

On July 29th the government of Ontario announces the project:

Ontario has selected Wataynikaneyap Power LP (Watay) to connect 16 remote First Nation communities that currently rely on diesel power to the province’s electricity grid.

Once complete, the project will provide more than 10,000 people living in remote First Nation communities in northwestern Ontario with a reliable, clean supply of electricity. Watay Power plans to begin construction work starting in 2018, once all approvals are secured, with the goal of completing construction and connecting communities by 2024.

The project is to service all the First Nations facilitating industrial wind turbines in Dutton-Dunwich.

I wrote on the financial implications in Who pays for latest uneconomic Ontario transmission project?

Today’s report from Brian Hill answers that question unpleasantly – making clear the fiscally irresponsible provincial government signed up the project without first establishing how much of the federal government will pay for the project – a project expected to benefit them as much as Ontario.

I support the statements by Brady Yauch in the Global story and would go further: capable utility regulation prohibits existing ratepayers from funding uneconomic network expansion.

This is not a project that could be funded by ratepayers if the OEB were a capable regulator.

There’s a few ugly messages in this post, and more to come if the government doesn’t halt electricity rate increases.

The Premier of Ontario is getting booed at public events in rural Ontario.

If federal Liberals are to avoid the same fate, it is they who need to step in and take this unjust burden off of Ontario’s electricity consumers.

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