QUEEN’S PARK – Last week the province’s Auditor General, Jim McCarter, released his annual report on government spending. While the report highlights many areas where the government needs to improve, his review of the government’s energy strategy is the most telling.
In addition to showing that the government’s current green energy strategy is driving bills too high and jobs out of the province, McCarter confirms what many already know: there are major problems with the Debt Retirement Charge (DRC).
McCarter found that the McGuinty Liberal government isn’t providing regular updates on the debt, as required by legislation. Instead, we expect that the debt should have been paid off, but don’t know why it hasn’t been.
The biggest problem is that there is no requirement for the money collected through the charge actually go towards the debt! In his findings he suggests two things: that all monies collected through the DRC be applied directly to the debt, and that the government begin providing us with the required updates. I support both recommendations and think it is disrespectful and misleading of the McGuinty government to have been doing otherwise, especially given that electricity is an essential service.
While it would be irresponsible to pretend the debt doesn’t exist, we need to ensure that the money we all pay towards the elimination of this debt is applied to the debt, thereby eliminating the charge once and for all.
McCarter also points out that the Energy Retailer scheme created by the Progressive Conservatives is hurting consumers. By his numbers, the auditor found that over the course of a five-year contract with a for-profit retailer, consumers are paying 35-65% more than they would with their public utility. He adds that while only 15% of consumers are on contracts with these companies, they make up 90% of the complaints to the Ontario Energy Board, with the number of complaints tripling over the last five years. This, despite the McGuinty government’s attempts to curb the dubious practices of some retailers. Based on these facts, I think it’s time to ban the operation of private energy marketers in Ontario.
McCarter’s report shows that we can do better. I will continue to raise these issues to ensure that we get action on the auditor’s recommendations.
Although frustrating, I encourage you to read the auditor’s report for yourself. You can access it online, or contact my office for a copy. As always, I welcome your input and feedback.
Sarah Campbell MPP