Selling Hydro One: Gutting oversight to line pockets of corporations

By Paul Kahnert

Friday April 17, 2015After announcing the possible sale of Hydro One, Premier Wynne, on March 10, went on the record in the Globe and mail and said, “whatever we do, we are going to control prices. We are going to make sure that the regulatory regimes that will protect people in this province stay in place.” She has repeated that promise in the media several times since.

The clauses in Bill 91 are completely contradictory to Premier Wynne’s promises. The gutting of the regulatory regimes that will protect people in this province by Bill 91 is jaw dropping.

In Bill 91 oversight from the Auditor General and the ombudsman is removed. The oversight of the Financial Accountability Officer on Hydro One and all government power to regulate accounting practices and policies of Hydro One is removed. The cap on Hydro One’s executives and the requirement to report salaries to the “Sunshine List” is removed. The Freedom of Information Act both for the province and for Municipalities and any of Hydro Ones subsidiaries, his removed. Restrictions forbidding Hydro One from hiring lobbyists is, you guessed it, removed.

Bill 91 completely separates Hydro One from the broader public sector. There is a clause in Bill 91 forbidding the government from buying back Hydro One. Bill 91 also creates the conditions for further privatization by removing the 33 percent tax on selling a local municipal hydro. Cash strapped municipalities will be very tempted to sell their local utilities.

This legislation gives away total control to the corporations and paves the way for a tsunami of privatization.

It is important to note that under the partial privatization of hydro generation, hydro rates have gone up over 320 percent in the last 15 years. That is ten times the rate of inflation according to Stats Can.

This is the most rightwing bill since Harris’ Bill 26, the Omnibus bill. It is the biggest transfer of public wealth to the private few in Canadian history and sells out future generations of Ontarians.

Premier Wynne’s credibility on the whole matter is in tatters. She has no mandate to sell Hydro One. Liberals in her caucus, who privately oppose this sale, would be well advised to speak up now or spend more than a decade in the political wilderness after the next election.

Nobody has forgotten the sellout of Highway 407.

A version of this piece first appeared in the Hamilton Spectator.

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