Ms. Wynne: Painting wasteful policies with a green brush won’t fool Ontarians

By: Christine Van Geyn, Director, Canada Taxpayers Federation

Article originally published on Dec 21, 2015 by the Globe and Mail and can be accessed here: 

In the card game Euchre, the trump card is one you hold back and use to win if nothing else works. Kathleen Wynne seems to have found her trump card, and it is green.
Whenever she is cornered with clear facts of a failed policy, she throws down her green trump card and claims the moral high ground over her critics.
Take for example, the recent scathing report from the Auditor-General that found the Ontario government’s Green Energy Act policies have cost consumers $9.2-billion more for electricity than they would have paid under previous programs. Consumers have been paying far above market rates because of 20-year contracts for wind and solar energy. Specifically, Ms. Wynne has forced them to pay three and a half times the average U.S. market price for solar, and double for wind.
Instead of thanking the Auditor-General and committing to fix the problem, Ms. Wynne rushed to defend this policy. In fact, she has said she is “happy” to defend the extra billions of dollars consumers must pay, because green energy is worth the expense. Former premier Dalton McGuinty even wrote an op-ed piece after the release of the Auditor-General’s report in which he said “being clean and green comes with a cost.”
But this misses the point.
We do not want green at any price. The Auditor-General was not criticizing green energy itself. Nothing about wind or solar power is inherently wasteful. The Auditor-General’s point was that the particular energy the government contracted to buy was overpriced. That was why she compared the amount paid in Ontario to the price in other jurisdictions. If we are buying green, we should still get it at a competitive market price.
Ms. Wynne used her green trump card again when she came under fire over winter road maintenance contracts. The Auditor-General found in her 2015 Special Report on Winter Highway Maintenance that the government accepted the lowest bid for the road service, even though the contractor did not have sufficient equipment. The government spent millions on new plows and sanders as a result.
While the issue was clearly one of waste – why hire a contractor who did not own the equipment – Ms. Wynne deflected to climate change. She responded to the criticism by stating “we are seeing the effects of climate change across this country […] It is very important to have the right equipment.”
Of course it is important to have the right equipment, but who pays for that equipment and who owns it at the end of the day is the issue. Ms. Wynne somehow turned the issue of a flawed procurement process into a debate about global warming.
The green trump card even works in the most tenuous of circumstances. Take the use that Glen Murray, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, made of “an unprecedented drought” as the explanation for the destabilization of Syria. In this government’s view, the “root cause” of the displacement of millions of Syrians is climate change. Not Islamic State, not Bashar al-Assad’s barrel bombs. It is really about global warming. Talk about co-opting a tragedy in the name of your own political agenda.
And of course, green policy is used to justify policies designed to bring revenue to Ms. Wynne’s government, which faces debt levels approaching $300-billion and spends $11.3-billion a year on debt interest.
The cap-and-trade system for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases is a revenue plan couched in green language. It is a complex scheme that involves the government creating financial products called “carbon credits” that it then forces industries to buy and trade. Of course it requires the establishment of an enormous bureaucracy. The plan is projected to raise $2-billion in revenue for the government each year.
Likewise, the recently announced high occupancy toll lanes are a method of squeezing revenue out of Ontario drivers. Ms. Wynne threw down her green trump card and claimed moral authority over her critics by saying this revenue tool is really about the environment.
But Ms. Wynne should be wary. A trump card is a powerful tool, but in Euchre you can use it only once. The Premier has played it multiple times. If she keeps playing her trump, she will find that it will stop working. And eventually Ontarians will see these policies for the waste and cash-grabbing they truly are.


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