News

Horwath seeks referendum on sale of Hydro One

By Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. (ANTONELLA ARTUSO/Toronto Sun)

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. (ANTONELLA ARTUSO/Toronto Sun)

TORONTO - 

The owners of Hydro One deserve a voice in its partial sell off, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says.

The NDP Leader announced Thursday she is introducing a private member’s bill that would force the Ontario government to hold a public referendum before putting electricity assets up for sale.

Hydro One is currently wholly owned by Ontarians through their provincial government.

Premier Kathleen Wynne will allow the private sector to purchase 60% of the company –- with no one buyer owning more than 10% -- while the government retains a controlling 40% share.

The anticipated $9 billion in sale proceeds would be used to pay off electricity system debt and pay for infrastructure such as transit and roads, Wynne has promised.

The government gave no real warning to voters in last year’s provincial election that it intended to take this action, and the NDP has been holding “packed” town hall meetings with people concered about the impact of the sale on the province’s future, Horwath said.

“We know that hydro prices will increase with the sell off,” Horwath said. “The premier claims that she’s been upfront and honest with the people of this province but no matter what she says she did not run on the sell off of Hydro One.

“In fact just a few months ago, she stood in the legislature and looked at me, looked at me straight in the eye, and frankly looked at the people of Ontario and said that she would not sell Hydro One.”

Hundreds of protesters, many carrying CUPE union signs, rallied at Queen’s Park Thursday afternoon to demand that Hydro One stay entirely in public hands.

The NDP leader acknowledged that a referendum of all Ontarians’ views would be costly, and suggested the government should put off the sale until after the next general election in 2018 when the poll could be done more cheaply in conjunction with the ballot.

Her bill would appear to be a largely symbolic gesture because she would need support from the majority Ontario Liberal government for it to become law.

Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said the provincial budget released prior to the 2014 election made it clear that the government was looking at Hydro One as an asset that could provide infrastructure funding.

“So it was out there before the last election, (Horwath) knew about it, “ Chiarelli said.

PC MPP Jim Wilson said a referendum would be a waste of money as it’s already obvious that most Ontarians do not want to see Hydro One sold off in this manner.

antonella.artuso@sunmedia.ca

 

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