“I very much thank the Auditor General for his report and for his good advice”

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EditorialTHUNDER BAY – After the Auditor General released his 2011 Annual Report, there was one thing that was certain. The government would state the report was being welcomed and acted on. Yesterday the first words out of a McGuinty Minister, in this case Chris Bentley, responding to a question were, “I very much thank the Auditor General for his report and for his good advice. We’re already acting on the recommendations to improve the approach”. There was another issue that happened yesterday, that perhaps shows that the Auditor General’s annual report won’t be taken all that seriously. The Premier, Dalton McGuinty wasn’t in the Legislature.

The Premier was out promoting his Green Energy program. That led PC leader Tim Hudak in Question Period to state, “The Auditor General rips apart your FIT program, which has cost us $4.4 billion. He cites study after study. For every short-term, subsidized job you create, you cost two to four jobs in the economy. Given the scathing indictment of your program, why are you basically telling the Auditor General to take a hike by boosting Samsung today?”

The problem appears to be in the rush to be green, the Liberals didn’t do all the needed research that they should have done. “Getting the right information to help ensure the best decisions are made is all the more important given the fiscal challenges Ontario currently faces,” McCarter said, noting that he flagged this problem in his eight previous Annual Reports. “In our audits this year, we found a number of instances where better information would help management improve program operations and guide long-term strategic planning.”

In other words, the Auditor General has repeatedly found problems and flagged them for the past eight years, and it certainly appears little is being done to actually address those problems.

For Ontario taxpayers, who are facing annual increases in hydro rates of eight per cent or more over the coming years, it appears that maybe what is needed is for the Auditor General to be provided with some real teeth to ensure those recommendations made are actually acted upon. The AG found that in many cases wind and solar projects are producing power cannot get to the people who really need it.

MPP Vic Fedeli stated, “When it comes to the FIT programs, wind and solar, the Auditor General stated, “You can’t connect them to the grid,” “It looks like we don’t need the capacity anyway,” and “Wind and solar are not very reliable.” He also shocked homeowners when he announced that their hydro bills would go up by 8% every year thanks to the heavily subsidized wind and solar program.”

Here in Thunder Bay Atikokan, Bill Mauro has come out swinging against the location of a proposed wind farm atop the NorWester Mountains over environmental concerns for perigrine falcons.

Perhaps the real issue should be over the costs, and over the two to four jobs that those projects are costing our economy. As power rates rise, the chances of forestry or mining operations growing in our region are made increasingly difficult.

While it doesn’t appear the McGuinty Government is willing to admit there is a problem with the FIT Program or with Ontario’s Green Energy Act, the PCs are likely to keep pounding away on the issue. In the Legislature yesterday, Tim Hudak asked, “If you believe in benefiting from the experience from other jurisdictions, Spain backed away from this program, Germany backed away, the United Kingdom and the United States, when they found that for every subsidized job, it cost two to four jobs in the broader economy. If it works nowhere else in the world, why are you doubling down on an expensive, out-of-touch, out-of-date, wasteful program that is costing us jobs in the province of Ontario?”

Chris Bentley responded, “In the depths of the economic recession, we made the choice to use clean, green energy jobs—to require they use manufactured components from Ontario. Those jobs support families, they support communities and they contribute to the strength of the Ontario economy”.

It seems regardless of what government is in power, when they are caught in mistakes by their Auditor General they all pull out the statement, “I very much thank the Auditor General for his report and for his good advice” – and then basically ignore it.

Its shameful.

James Murray

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