Ontario moves to silence citizen participation in electricity issues

Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli put forward Bill 112, which would eliminate an essential layer of independent oversight of provincial energy policy, writes Brady Yauch. {Photo Toronto Star Richard J. Brennan]
Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli put forward Bill 112, which would eliminate an essential layer of independent oversight of provincial energy policy, writes Brady Yauch. {Photo Toronto Star Richard J. Brennan]

Toronto Star, January 4, 2016

By: Brady Yauch Published on Mon Jan 04 2016

Ontario’s desire for total control over all aspects of the electricity sector is nearly fulfilled.

The push to eliminate dissent and independent review of the province’s energy monopolies has been a decade in the making. Since 2004, many of the province’s largest and most expensive policies were implemented with little to no oversight — at great cost to ratepayers, as the Auditor General forcefully highlighted in her recent annual report.

But Queen’s Park is set to fully take over all decision-making regarding the province’s energy monopolies by solidifying its control over the province’s energy regulator, the Ontario Energy Board (OEB), with the recent passing of Bill 112. In doing so, Ontario is shutting down the last arena of independent public review of the billions of dollars being spent by the province and its many publicly owned utilities.

The legislation, “Strengthening Consumer Protection and Electricity System Oversight Act,” would deny independent intervenors the funds needed to hire the lawyers and experts needed at these hearings, effectively blocking their participation.

Prior to this legislation, any individual ratepayer or organization representing ratepayers — ranging from big, industrial groups to cottage associations or low-income organizations — could apply for funding and act as an intervenor in any rate application. The government would instead replace the independent intervenors with a new government-appointed consumer representative.

In other jurisdictions where this has occurred, the direct cost of this new bureaucracy has been far more expensive than the cost of reimbursing intervenors for their lawyers and consultants. The indirect costs of losing the ability to hold the utility monopolies to account by forcing them to justify their proposed rate increases before the OEB could be much greater still.

One study found that intervenors have been highly successful at paring back the monopolies’ rate requests, their lawyers and consultants costing ratepayers just 2 cents annually while helping to reduce rate increases by $28 per customer. Other studies found that intervenors account for 1 per cent or less of overall regulatory costs, which themselves are a small amount of total electricity costs borne by ratepayers.

Replacing these groups with a government-appointed consumer representative charged with questioning government-owned monopolies eliminates the last remaining voice of independent review of proposals by public monopolies to spend billions of dollars on capital projects.

The province’s new legislation also ensures that any new transmission line can be deemed a “priority project” by the ministry of energy and automatically approved by the OEB. In the past, the OEB would analyze such projects to determine whether they were necessary or cost-effective. Furthermore, the province is considering more legislation that will exempt all government-directed energy plans or projects to be exempt from the Environmental Assessment Act.

The province’s previous moves to sidestep independent review have been costly for ratepayers. The smart meter rollout — which cost ratepayers $2 billion and counting and still isn’t fully functional — was done without any review from the OEB or other regulators. Billions of dollars in contracts have been — and continue to be — given to renewable energy and natural gas generators without any review by the OEB or intervenors. And the long-term energy plans developed by the province’s own energy planning experts — the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) — were never implemented and, instead, were replaced with plans written by the ministry of energy that were, again, never fully reviewed at the OEB and were later criticized by the Auditor General as overly expensive.

More recently, the province collapsed the OPA into another energy agency, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), which is in charge of operating the province’s wholesale electricity market, ensuring that even more political control is embedded in ever more parts of the electricity sector. There is no longer anything “independent” about the Independent Electricity System Operator.

In the end, the OEB and the intervenors were the last voice of criticism that wasn’t on the payroll of the province. By replacing them with a government-led consumer advocate, the province will control every step of decision-making on electricity policy and spending, those pesky checks and balances eliminated at last.

Brady Yauch is an economist and Executive Director of the Consumer Policy Institute (CPI). He has acted as an intervenor at the OEB.

Comments

Mike Jankowski
Reply

THIS is our Ontario government’s response to customer dissatisfaction?

Every tax payer should be livid about this.

Thank you for un-earthing this subtly played, but impactful change.

Gord Schneider
Reply

There must be a criminal investigation into the whole Ontario power situation. This goes beyond the pale. I can’t imagine any responsible (to the taxpayers and voters) government trying this one on for size…….and getting away with it.

Barbara
Reply

Maybe begin with misfeasance in office and then there is the Nanticoke situation.

Barbara
Reply

A misfeasance in office case was won in Ontario, Canada because a prisoner was denied the right size pair of shoes.

See the above law article.

Barbara
Reply

Example of A Competition Bureau Complaint by an individual.

Aug.16, 2012

A complaint about a company and the Northern Gateway project alleging false and/or misleading advertising.

Internet copy of the Complaint at:
http://www.wcel.org/sites/default/files/Competition%20Bureau%20Complaint.pdf

Sometimes difficult to download this PDF. Try typing in the address.

Johana
Reply

Gord

Would you please outline for WCO the steps this organization should be following in oder to get someone [who, I don’t know] to establish a PUBLIC INQUIRY/ENQUIRY into this fraud, scam, malfeasance, misfeasance which started when Mike Crawley was on the work group which wrote the regulations for the electrical system ~ 1995.

Barbara
Reply

The above Canadian Bar Review article also explains the reasons why public inquires often don’t work.

Pat Cusack
Reply

Sunny days my friends, sunny days

Theresa
Reply

This is absolutely disgustingly CRIMINAL. Government hired representatives commununicate what they are instructed to by the government. DICTATORSHIP.
OUST the Liberals NOW. Restore DEMOCRACY.
Ontario, Toronto, your ignorance to reality will cost you more than your money.
Toronto favortism and refugee votes (they are granted Canadian citizenship status), are tge Liberals ace in the hole in future elections.
Where do you think this will end? Our government is setting our country up for a conflict of physical violence. Oh no, “not in my back yard you believe.” Well sorry folks, take a look at what’s happening globally. “Off with their heads.” You can deny the bullshit for only so long; the actions of the government (that who enabled?) will creep upon your doorstop like a plague, a cancer – sooner than you would like to think. HELLO???

Pat Cusack
Reply

p.s. Get your hands on Bruce Nixon’s (U.K.) new book “The 21st Century Revolution”.

Theresa
Reply

WISE UP Ontario. You are conduction yourselves as a brainwashed bunch of zombies. For crying out load, snap out of it. THINK for yourselves. It has come to needing so many laws and restrictions. Many city folk cannot even step off a side walk and cross a busy street safely wirh out cross walks, lights, signals which have been developed to assist those who have no common sense; or are these people just defiant – they do what they want, when they want with no regard?
You have been DUMB DOWNED by the government you have chosen, believed in, and trusted.
I was once stupid (trusted that the government was acting in good faith.) The radiation I have been exposed to by the “green” renewable energy producing industrial wind turbines built around my home has seriously damaged my health, and caused me disability to the extent that I am not capable of returning to my classroom. Low frequencies emitted by industrial wind turbines can travel for miles and penetrate the body causing tissue and bone damage. Diseases associated with exposure to LFN are heart attacks, stroke, dementia, diabetes, cancer.
The turbine development has caused much physical and psychological pain. I have lost all equity in my home. Thanks Ontario!
Now Kathleen Wynn has befriended and is preying on the naïveté of our new inexperienced Liberal Priminister who was elected on his personality and looks! This guy is living a fairy tale on our tax money, while the rest of us go down the tube…..
My money has been used to build machines that harm me. My government does not care. My government will not help me.
WHY?????
My/your money is given to renewable energy developers in the form of subsidies to build these useless killing machines. The money s going straight into their pockets. There are many government officials who have huge interests in these developments, receiving the money.
A few years ago Mike Crawley (CEO of AIM Powergen) was an office administrator at Queen’s Park; “Paper Clip” was the name given to him. I guess if I can be called a “Nimby” there is no harm in reference to PC. Crawley joined team Dalton McGuinty (remember that former Premier who stepped down and flew the coop when…? Oh yeah, when the heat, the fire, his corrupt activity crept on to his doorstep.
The names of these criminals are not passed over the tables of city folk like Torontonians as the companies are numbered corporations, which are bought and sold to other corporations – consisting of the same players! Pictures of these crooks should be published and associated with the crime they continue to pull off. The crime that is committed using the tax dollars of Torontonians.
Liberal voters are enablers, accessories to crime and should be penalized with the rest of them.
:-O ! Start by giving our people, the people who have been harmed and robbed of their homes, new homes, compensation. Grant these people status, just as the Natives have been given. Ontario people have been harmed and robbed. Exempt rural folk from all taxes.
Disclosure will happen. Past issues/diversions (gas plant relocation scandal) are the tip of the iceberg in the big picture. Dalton McGuinty’s Green Energy Act is “the crime of the century” here in Ontario; “you bloody well right.” Hey, I know that song…….!
Where is “my friend” that handsome compassionate, new Prime minister of ours? Hmmm..busy on a photo shoot for Rolling Stones mag perhaps!!????
Lord have mercy.

Barbara
Reply

Seems a subscription is needed to get later information from Clean Energy Pipeline but the 2013 Guide can be Googled under:

Clean Energy Canada Pipeline Guide 2013, but only has a little information under: Legal Tables, p.36.

2012 Guide has the most information.

Barbara
Reply

Note which law firms do the most business!

ScepticalGord
Reply

Since this story was printed in the Liberal Toronto Star, then things must be really bad. But don’t worry … a few years from now, the Star Editorial Board will endorse the re-election of the worst premier of all time: Kathleen Wynne.

vpet
Reply

Its time for Califorinia style tax, etc. strike!!!

Country Gal
Reply

Theresa, my heart goes out to you. No one should be subjected to the harm
that you and others have experienced and history will continue to repeat itself as more projects are completed. As certainly as water always finds it’s level my community is slated for the very harm that you have experienced.
Would you please share some information about the turbines from your area?
How many turbines are within a 2 Km radius of you? What height are the turbines and what MW power are they? Do you have transmission lines near you? Have you had to leave your home?
Some people have been so negatively affected here just from the construction phase. With the installation of the transmission lines property owners will have their shade trees cut down and wind breaks demolished. The mitigation strategy is all mature trees that will be cut down will be replaced. I ask, “With what?”
The transmission lines emit an electric magnetic field which is a health hazard. Homes built close to the roadways will have towering lines at a
120 foot height so near to them and they are not even aware of the health consequences.
The transmission lines are slated to run beside a brand new subdivision. What is even more problematic is that in front of the subdivision, ground has been broken for a new public school. Two large cell towers just a short distance away will be to the right and left side of the school.
For safety reasons no cell tower should be less than 12 KM distance from a residence. How many times has that cautionary been adhered to?
Dr. Samuel Milham from California an expert in stray voltage and EMF’s stated that children within 500 yards distance of cell towers alone the rate of cancer goes up 40%. So the children at this new school will be too close to the transmission lines and two cell towers.
What will it take for the public to say, ” Enough, already !!! “

Theresa
Reply

Hi Countey Gal,
Incase you didn’t see it, the following site is very informative, taken from a recent WCO response.
Be sure to watch the videos. Dr. Alec Salt, featured is very good.
I will follow up with health issues I have developed since the building of the turbines at my home.

Theresa
Reply

Hi Country Gal,
Yes, I will provide you with the information you have requested. There are 18 1.65 mw Vesta wind turbines within 3 km of my home, the closest being ~400 meters. Turbines were built around my home in 2008. I questioned, yet trusted the government would not permit a harmful development to be built too close to homes. I lived there for a year and a half before my son literally got me out of bed, had found a place and I left with a few things I needed – food and clothes. I moved away in 2010. My home now sits empty. Prior to moving out, I had left my home many nights and slept in my vehicle away from the turbines.
One turbine within 450 meters is too much. Exposure is very harmful and can be fatal. Once exposed the sensitivity is permanent.
I have shared my story many times, locally as well as with the media – newspapers, CBC, Global National, National Post. I took a break from speaking at public information sessions. The humiliation I experienced in my community, as well as from friends and family was too much for me. I am weak, physically and mentally.
I will continue again, reporting my experience, in the near future. I am currently at the library which is soon closing. I am also very tired.
Thank you.

Barbara
Reply

Theresa, you along with a great many others have had the “shame-game” played on you. Cheers for speaking up!

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