The recent by-election (yesterday) in Toronto (Scarborough-Rouge River) resulted in the Progressive Conservatives gaining another seat in the provincial legislature. While this is noteworthy, the past three by-elections have gone to the PCs. The Kathleen Wynne government still has a majority and a mandate to continue to work on the activist agenda, but they should take care and pause to consider the impacts of these last three “mini” votes. They are a reflection of the general public perception of the performance of the government and the ruling party should be concerned.
By advocating policies which have a purported positive impact on the environment, the government has pushed forward an agenda which has taken on a “Damn the Torpedoes” approach. No doubt there have been some positive impacts on the environment over the past couple of years. One just has to look at the number of smog days that have occurred in the City of Toronto to see that number has significantly declined. But at what cost? And is it worth the cost? This is what the electorate is deciding.
The Liberal government does not seem to appreciate the impact that some of their policies are having on individuals and small and medium sized business. The impact on large business is still coming. One of the major consequences of the environmental activist agenda has been the unprecedented increase in the cost of electrical power. And this is what the current government wants to encourage its citizens to consume more of, compared to non-renewable resources like oil, propane and natural gas.
The costs of electricity, all in, are simple too high! It is not only a question of what the consumer (in this case both citizens and small and medium size business) can afford to pay, but for the business consumer it is also about the ability to compete with your neighbours. And I don’t mean our neighbours down the street, but those in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. They pay HALF what Ontario rate payers are charged. HALF!. To me this is unconscionable.
Next January we are going to see an increase in the cost of Natural gas to the tune of 3.3 cents per cubic meter. How does this impact electricity pricing one might ask. Well, a large portion of Ontario’s on-demand electricity comes from power plants fueled by natural gas. We have yet to hear what the impact on electricity pricing will be, but you can take it to the bank that electricity generators are going to pass down their increased costs of generation to the consumer. Look for even higher, not lower, electricity pricing.
This also has had impacts on agriculture and food processing, some positive, some negative. For certain it has made these sectors look at the future, and how they can compete. Improving efficiency, eliminating cost and trying to maintain a similar or enhance return on investment is on the mind of all producers. There is risk, and this risk is high, that many will simply leave the business, or take the business elsewhere. This is the “Leakage” term used by the government. This is already happening, and when they go, so do the jobs. So does some of the incentive for companies to locate here (recognize that we do have a skilled workforce and low corporate taxes compared to some other jurisdictions).
The results of the three previous by-elections are a consequence of many different policies, but those that directly affect the pocket-book of the consumer are going to result is tumultuous times for the ruling Liberal government. In my view, they are going to really need to work hard to retain votes for the next full general provincial election.