Kathleen Wynne (D), the former premier of Ontario, called wind and solar production “public works” for generating revenue for green energy industry, companies that are not yet profitable and currently employ almost no workers.
Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault (D) has explained the government’s $8 billion commitment to replacing coal-fired power plants with natural gas and wind and solar plants as a “return on investment” for taxpayers.
It is difficult to discern such returns when taxpayer money has already paid for those plants and when the government has not identified any commercially viable energy sources that would require less taxpayer investment.
Moreover, wind and solar farms are of limited value in generating electricity. On average, wind farms generate marginally less electricity than coal plants; renewable plants that emit conventional pollutants, such as carbon dioxide, emit more pollution.
Solar installations are expensive to design, install and maintain. They need more support than wind energy, which generates a consistent supply of electricity during the day and has at times proven competitive with coal.
Until those issues are resolved, solar and wind farms will not generate value for taxpayers.
The Liberal government’s generous solar subsidies tripled the cost of electricity for consumers and doubled the cost of wind power through direct subsidy payments to wind and solar producers. The costs of setting up clean energy plants will increase, and the Energy Department estimates that wind and solar projects will now cost $35 billion.
The decision to move forward with developing new renewable energy plants, even under a new Liberal government, underscores the Liberal regime’s abysmal performance on the environment.
Having achieved the goal of taking market share away from Alberta’s oilsands, which operated at costs competitive with coal power, Premier Doug Ford has provided Ontario with the highest electricity rates in North America.
Housing, health care and education could face higher costs without the government’s response to the 2017, 2018 and 2019 deficit-mounting budget.
Any discussion of the Ford government’s fiscal plans should also include concern about its actions on the environment.
Unlike the Liberal government, Ford is prioritizing infrastructure and public safety as measured by use of a gun in a crime. The previous government’s climate change policies emphasized conservation and solar and wind plants.
On the economy, the budget does not include any revenue assumptions. The government has not suggested whether there will be a corporate tax cut or income tax exemptions, which will improve Ontario’s competitiveness against Alberta.
Ford’s budget confirms many of the economic assumptions of the Liberals: the province will borrow $12 billion next year to fund Ontario’s deficit, which will be eliminated in five years.
Despite the premier’s promise to eliminate post-secondary tuition, increases are projected in the categories of health care, post-secondary and education, suggesting that the government will reduce education spending, which may lower the likelihood of higher salaries for university professors, doctors and nurses.
When Ford’s rookie government took office, they inherited a financial crisis that was largely caused by the Liberals, whose irresponsible spending and low tax policies encouraged foreign investors to leave Ontario. With those investors gone, Ontario’s economy has deteriorated.
Continuing as budgetary operators for the Liberals’ former spending and low tax policies will now mean lower federal revenues and higher future provincial deficits.
Successive Liberal governments are guilty of borrowing and spending to build their “green” industries, but they have not allowed the taxpayers to spend their own money on clean energy that would provide a greater return for the taxpayers.
This is why Ontario, one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers, is now the victim of a budget policy that will increase the cost of living, lose jobs and reduce investment. In the process, Ford’s government is contributing to a serious environmental crisis that impacts every Canadian.
Chris Alexander served as Canada’s minister of foreign affairs from 2011 to 2014. He worked in Washington, D.C., for more than 20 years, as well as the White House and the State Department. He is the author of the upcoming book “Smokey and the Bandit: A True Story of the Best Damn Band in the West”