Shrug this off Mother Goose!

It seems that Ontario’s ruling Whigs are going to sell off a portion of Hydro One come hell or high water. Ontario voters are hearing of this continued determination after the newly appointed financial accountability officer for the province has warned that the province will be in even worse financial straits after the sale of the crown utility. Mother Goose—in the person of Premier Kathleen Wynne—has been reported as merely shrugging off the advice of her own appointee. She is treating the person paid to advise the Legislature in these matters as cavalierly as she treats the Ontario opposition parties.

There might be a lot of reasons to ignore the new Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader but she should remember that the idea of selling off Hydro One originated with the Conservative government of former Premier Mike Harris. There is memory in that party of all the work done at the time to prepare Hydro One and that memory might just include the reasons why it did not happen.

The Ontario New Democrats have never been in favour of selling off any of Hydro One. The electric distribution utility is a critical part of the ability of government to attract and support industry in the province. And putting the utility in a position where it will be under constant pressure by investors to increase rates is not a smart industrial strategy.

In fact, selling off one of the province’s Golden Geese is neither good planning nor does it make long-term sense—and that was what the financial accountability officer noted. There is no easy way for the government to replace any or all of the roughly $700 million per year that Hydro One has been turning over to the government.

It is not like cash cows such as Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) where the province has to keep regulatory control as well as a majority of the profits. Those profits are sizeable for the province no matter who owns the distribution and sales outlets. And OLG and the LCBO have many pieces and parts that can be sold off to a myriad of entrepreneurs to make even more money each year for the province.

Mother Goose needs to seriously learn that the care and handling of the province’s assets is part of the management of the province. It is a trust, not a playground. If she cannot handle the task there are lots of other incompetents who want a crack at it.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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