Opinion| Campaign Promises are Empty Promises

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The other political parties in our electoral system are accusing Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of a betrayal of trust for his announcement this week that he was backing off on his campaign promise to change the way Canadians vote in federal elections.

Huh?

Break a campaign promise? That’s a crime?

I think most of who are charged with electing these people just consider it a part of the process. The surprise comes when promises are kept.

Actually, as far as I am concerned, I think Trudeau made the right move.

From the time he mentioned it I didn’t think it was going to go anywhere. There was no call for it from the voting public.

Trudeau said on the campaign trail that there was, but if that was indeed the case I missed it.

The only parties solidly in support of such a move would be the NDP and the Green Party, neither of whom has ever formed a government at the federal level and whose chances of ever doing so remain slim under the first-past-the-post system that is to remain in play.

Trudeau has set up a bipartisan committee to study electoral reform and it came out with a recommendation in December that the government hold a referendum on changing Canada’s voting system to proportional representation, where the share of seats more closely reflects the percentage of the popular vote each political party gets

It didn’t specify a particular alternative.

The Liberals, for some reason, didn’t want to go to the public for a decision. NDP and Green members of the committee, in a joint supplementary report, also questioned the need for a referendum.

I didn’t think it should be any other way so I am just as happy Trudeau has backed off on his plans to change the system.

I have written many times about proportional representation over the years, always in the negative. I am solidly in favour of first past the post.

It may not be perfect; the winner may not have a majority of the votes, but there is no guarantee a winner would have a majority of the votes under any system

All a change would do is allow voters to possibly have their second choice get elected.

Anyway, all I am really saying here is that no one should get bent out of shape because a politician does not keep a campaign promise. It has always been with us and always will be.

*****

This won’t be a surprise to many of you who have electric heat, but I thought I would throw it out for those who don’t.

Consider yourself lucky.

I was provided some bills from a person who heats his two-storey 2,600-square-foot home with electricity. The bills run from December 2015 to August 2016.

The bills for the eight months totalled $6,398, the highest bills being $1,198 and $1,251 for January and February.

Now this is in the city. They are higher in the district.

Just after I received these bills I received a list of salaries paid out to some of those who work for Ontario Hydro.

It is incredible how many are paid over $200,000 a year, let alone the number who make $100,000.

However, I picked the following off the CBC website. It gives the key reasons why hydro bills are so high and why it’ll be a challenge for the government to lower them enough that anyone would notice.

“1. Oversupply of power: Ontario’s electricity producers are generating more power than we consume in the province. But the government is locked into contracts to purchase that power regardless. It sells off the excess to the U.S., at rates below the cost of production. And even though you aren’t consuming that power, you still have to pay for your share of it every month (through a line on your power bill called the “global adjustment”).

Cancelling power contracts seems an easy solution — but not a cheap one: remember it cost $1 billion to cancel those infamous gas-fired power plants in Mississauga and Oakville.

“2. Pricey green energy: Wind, solar and bio-energy account for 6.3 per cent of total electricity generated in the province, but 16.3 per cent of the total generation cost, according to the auditor general’s recent investigation into hydro prices. Auditor Bonnie Lysyk criticized the government for offering overly generous contracts when it launched its big green energy push in 2009. Despite shifting gears to a competitive bidding process, the auditor found that in 2014, Ontario was still paying double the market price for wind and 3½ times the market price for solar energy.

“3. Weakened energy watchdog: The Ontario Energy Board is the independent body that regulates electricity pricing in the province, but not all electricity pricing. It has little ability to control the price paid to electricity generators, other than Ontario Power Generation’s nuclear plants at Pickering and Darlington and most of OPG’s hydroelectric dams. Anytime OPG wants to increase these prices, it has to seek approval from the board.”

“4. Well-paid hydro workers: The latest edition of the Sunshine List includes 7,632 employees of Ontario Power Generation. Their earnings total $1.07 billion. The last time Hydro One workers were on the Sunshine List (in 2014), there were 4,279 employees, with salaries totalling $550 million. The auditor general flagged in 2013 that generous salaries, pensions and benefits at OPG — especially among top executives — were partly to blame for rising hydro prices.”

Well, if you didn’t before, now you know why electricity prices are high.

Doesn’t do a thing to ease the pain, does it?

Doug Millroy can be reached at dmillroy@gmail.com.

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