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Canada’s sagging middle: Ontario
Ontario’s growth has lagged the rest of Canada, averaging less than 1% annually since 2009
With Quebec’s election over, we can turn to Ontario where a scandal-plagued Liberal government will soon present its 2014 budget – and possibly trigger a spring election. Ontario is sagging under the weight of monstrous public debt, uncompetitive energy prices and rising taxes. Given Ontario’s size, other regions of Canada are being hurt.
Ontario has only one way out: economic growth. Luckily, the American economic recovery will significantly benefit Ontario. However, it won’t be enough. The government needs to get its house in order.
Pushing aggregate demand with deficit spending won’t achieve growth. Economic stimulus might provide some short-term relief but won’t generate sustained expansion. Instead, growth will be attained with supply-side policies by reducing onerous regulations, providing some smart tax reforms and shifting to growth-oriented spending, especially to address the notorious Greater Toronto Area infrastructure problem.
Nor will growth come from expansionary public programs like the proposed Ontario pension plan. Forcing people to hold assets in a government-sponsored plan might be helpful to some but it will be just another form of new taxation for others, who are already have adequate savings for retirement.
Ontario’s growth has lagged the rest of Canada, averaging less than 1% annually since 2009. Employment since 2009 has increased by 375,000 but the employment rate has fallen to U.S.-levels of 61.4% as of March 2014, far less than Alberta’s at almost 70%.
Ontario‘s fiscal picture is also not pretty, with gross debt over $290-billion (net debt is $272-billion), requiring $10.6-billion in taxes to cover interest charges. This expense is enormous, about one-half of education expenditures.
The average Ontario debt interest rate is only 4% but interest rates are expected to rise within the next few years. Each point increase in interest rates will add at least another $3-billion in annual interest expense.
Ontario’s energy prices are soaring. Look at any bill and one can read added delivery charges, regulatory charges, debt retirement charges and HST, resulting in an average price of 12.48 cents per kwh in Toronto for households. Large power customers pay 10.89 cents per kwh in Toronto, less than New York but higher than most eastern U.S. and Canadian cities.
Ontario made real progress in 2009 by adopting the HST to replace the provincial sales tax and reducing Ontario’s corporate and personal taxes to ensure that revenues would not increase. However, the province reneged on tax cuts only two years later.
The Ontario corporate income tax rate is stuck at 11.5%, compared to the promised 2009 legislated rate of 10%. None of this helps the province’s poor investment climate. Ontario’s share of business capital spending is only 32% of Canadian investment, less than its share of population and dramatically less than a decade ago.
Personal income tax rates have also increased to almost 50% at the top end, third highest in Canada. There is a reason why many high-income taxpayers have moved Alberta with its top rate of 39%. Alberta’s rich households, with over $500,000 in family income, account for 15% of Alberta’s taxable personal income. This ratio is two-thirds higher than Ontario.
Add in Ontario sales taxes at a 13% rate (about the average Canadian rate), fuel taxes (Ontario’s at 14.7 cent per litre is one of the highest in the country) and property taxes (Ontario is on the high side especially for non-residential property) – it all adds up to a yoke on growth.
Ontario’s Minister of Finance is in a bind. He needs more growth but he also has to deal with a large debt mountain and an uncompetitive tax system. So what are his options? Here is a five-point plan.
First, focus spending on growth-oriented programs. Transportation infrastructure should be on the top of the list as GTA traffic results in unproductive use of time.
Second, kill off the feed-in tariff program for wind and solar that creates excessive electricity costs for households and companies. This would both improve growth and help reduce administrative costs….
Read the full article here.
Megan Dalaire, Ottawa Citizen, April 4, 2014
Ottawa — Hundreds of people affected by Ontario’s rising energy prices gathered Friday in a protest against the province’s Long-Term Energy Plan outside of MPP Bob Chiarelli’s office on Carling Avenue.
The energy plan was announced by Chiarelli on Dec. 2 and is expected to save the province $16 billion on energy between 2013 and 2017, at a high cost to residential hydro customers, whose bills will rise by 42 per cent over next five years, 50 per cent over next 10 years, and 68 per cent over next 20 years. The cost of heating is an especially touchy subject to Ottawans, who have just experienced the city’s coldest winter in two decades, but the protesters Friday had their fellow Ontarians in mind as they rallied for the second time since December.
”Across the province people are hurting because of high gas prices,” said protest organizer Beth Trudeau. ”What we want to do is to give a voice to the people who don’t have a voice. The people who have to choose between heating and eating.”
Friday’s protest was part of a provincewide movement called Join the Fight Against Hydro Rates, which Trudeau said was originally started by two Dryden, Ont., women and now has thousands of supporters.
Complaints by protesters covered a range of issues, from hydro usage cost increases, high distribution rates, HST and surcharges, to the dubious reputation of smart meters installed by Hydro One to replace analog meters. Passing motorists honked their horns and…
Read the full story and watch the video of PC Energy Critic Lisa MacLeod speech here.
A new paper from Dr Alec Salt, Professor of Otolaryngology at Washington University, on infrasound produced by large-scale wind turbines, long-term effects of exposure to infrasound, and the quality of noise measurement being used by governments and industry.
His conclusion is that: the time has come to acknowledge the problem and work to eliminate it. He also says the wind power development industry needs to be held to a higher standard of health and safety than it currently is.
Read the paper2014 SaltLichtenhan Acoustics Today, and our thanks to Dr Alec salt for forwarding a PDF of the paper for us to share with you.
Wind Concerns Ontario, in our continuing campaign to spark responsibility in the Ontario government for this burgeoning public health problem, will be forwarding the paper to the appropriate officials.
Feel free to share it with your Member of Provincial Parliament.
Since the Australian Medical Association came out with its “surprising” (Dr Robert McMurtry’s reaction) statement on wind turbine noise and health, people from around the world have been writing to provide the AMA with more information, and demand a retraction, reports Wind Victims Ontario.
A full report of the global reaction may be found here including copies of letters that have been sent.
The Waubra Foundation in Australia has a full list of letters sent, in alphabetical order; if you wish to contact the AMA, be sure to visit the Waubra Foundation link first, and copy them on your correspondence.
Here are some sample letter:
The Australian Medical Association Position Statement: “Wind Farms and Health” 2014 has provoked instant national and international condemnation from those who have first hand knowledge of the damaging impact of wind turbine noise, including impacted residents, researchers, and professionals providing either clinical care or acoustic services.
Some people are writing privately to the AMA, urging them to remove or update the ignorant AMA position statement, whilst others would like their views made public. As the Waubra Foundation becomes aware of letters written to the AMA and receives permission to reproduce them, they are being posted below.
The Waubra Foundation’s Open Letter to the AMA is here.
My name is Ann Gardner and I have lived and worked happily and healthily for 34 years, on my husband’s and my farming property in south-west Victoria until October 2012, when the first only 15 turbines of the Macarthur wind farm began operation, and threw our lives and those of many others, into turmoil.
At the time of writing this letter I am suffering terribly from the infrasound emitted by the 140 turbines located FAR TOO CLOSE to our property.
I have a bad headache. I have a very strong pain shooting up through the back of my neck and into my head. I have extremely sore and blocked ears and very painful pressure in my nose. I have pressure in my jaws and my teeth. My heart is POUNDING .….. I can feel the vibration going through my body, through the chair, like an electric charge. I have just taken yet another two tablets to try and alleviate the pain.
I am also exhausted, as last night, along with every other night, I spent more time awake than asleep. The infrasound in our bedroom, was appalling .….. I could feel the vibration through the mattress and the pillow, like an electric charge through my body. My head felt as if a brick was on it, and the pressure and pain in my nose was extreme. I have always been a very sound sleeper, that is until October 2012. I am now lucky if I am able to get two or three hours sleep each night, in my own home.
Gallandy-Jakobsen, Greta. AMA Concerned About Machines Instead of Human Beings
Do you remember your oath as a member of the medical profession?
At the time of being admitted as a member of the medical profession:
- I solemnly pledge to consecrate my life to the service of humanity;
- I will give to my teachers the respect and gratitude that is their due;
- I will practice my profession with conscience and dignity;
- The health of my patient will be my first consideration;
- I will respect the secrets that are confided in me, even after the patient has died;
- I will maintain by all the means in my power, the honour and the noble traditions of the medical profession;
- My colleagues will be my sisters and brothers;
- I will not permit considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to intervene between my duty and my patient;
- I will maintain the utmost respect for human life;
- I will not use my medical knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties, even under threat;
- I make these promises solemnly, freely and upon my honour.
Enbom, Dr Hakam, MD, PhD. Otoneurologist, Angelholm, Sweden
“Thus the conclusion is that low frequency sound and infrasound from wind power has the qualities to trigger increased sensitivity and eventually migraine headache or other migraine-symptoms – such as vertigo or tinnitus (without headache).”
Hopkins, Dr Gary D. Emergency Physician, South Australia
“I am rendered speechless by your irresponsible, ill researched, ill advised and reckless statement that those who might suffer physical effects from the presence of turbines are suffering a psychological condition (anxiety). Indeed your very statement itself causes anxiety in those likely to be effected ( “who will believe me when I tell them I feel sick ” ? ).”
McMurtry, Professor R. Researcher, Expert Witness, Former Dean Medical School, Ontario, Canada
“I am writing to comment on the AMA Position Statement. The position statement is surprising. It is not well informed, references are absent and the authors of the document are undisclosed. Many of the phrases and claims in the document faithfully reflect wind industry claims, claims which cannot be substantiated.
Review of the existing evidence in which direct assessment of exposed individuals has been carried out uniformly reveals adverse health effects2. The common denominator of complaints consists of sleep disturbance, inner ear disturbance and stress response. These are serious adverse health effects. These adverse health events have been reported globally in the media and grey literature.”
Papadopoulos, George. Pharmacist, Yass, NSW
“Both AMA position statements reflect an abstract position that does not examine reality.
It seems that the AMA perceives information and open discussion as a threat to the mental wellbeing of the modern Australian.
The harm wind turbines can cause has been described by NASA scientists in the 1980’s. The response by Sarah Laurie to the AMA is very comprehensive and makes the case clear”
Reider, Dr Sandy MD, Primary Care Physician, Vermont USA, has treated impacted residents
“As a rural primary care physician (graduate of Harvard Medical School in 1971) in northern Vermont, USA, I have observed first hand the adverse health effects experienced by individuals living too close to the two large wind projects that have been brought online in the area over the past few years.”
Tibbetts, Dr. Jay J. MD, Primary Care Physician, Wisconsin, USA, has treated impacted residents
“Over the past four years the Board has studied the deleterious effects of IWT’s on human health.
We have the Shirley Wind Farm in our county. It consists of eight 500’ 2.5 megawatt IWT’s. The effects on our citizens living in the immediate vicinity i.e. 2–3 mi. of the nearest turbine has been devastating. Ear pressure , pain, tinnitus, vertigo, headache, nausea, chest pain pressure, abdominal pain, poor concentration, sleep deprivation, irritability and depression are some of the symptoms our citizens are experiencing. These symptoms are not unique to our facility but are reported world wide and a direct effect of ILFN. Three families from Shirley Wind have abandoned their homes and several others would move save for financial reasons.”
Fighting against a huge wind power development slated for West Grey, citizens there have launched a new website (which features a petition to repeal the Green Energy Act, and are planning public events.
Visit the website here for more information.
Southgate Township, near Mount Forest, could land big bucks if it agrees to host Samsung’s wind and solar farm236
Cashing in or selling out?
In an unprecedented deal that could become standard fare under new provincial rules for green energy projects, a Southwestern Ontario township could rake in more than $5 million if it gives its blessing to a wind-farm plan.
But at least one opposition group says Southgate, near Mount Forest, would be selling out its residents and principles if it agrees to willingly host wind turbines and solar installations.
Southgate Township has been offered a deal with Samsung in which the company would make annual payments that would total $5.1 million over 20 years in exchange for a council resolution expressing support for a wind and solar farm within its boundaries.
Under Samsung’s offer, the money would go into a “community vibrancy fund” that could be used by the municipality for a wide variety of projects, including roads, recreational facilities, job training, social events and property tax relief.
Samsung is proposing to build a wind farm with about 50 industrial wind turbines and a solar farm in Southgate.
The proposed deal has been denounced by Wind Concerns Ontario, the umbrella organization fighting against wind farm projects across the province.
“We were quite surprised by what was in it,” said Jane Wilson, the organization’s president.
The group’s objection is based on everything else Samsung specifies goes with the resolution of support — unconditional granting of road use agreements, building permits and severance applications.
Read the full story here.
Comments Welcomed on Southgate Wind and Solar
Southgate is going to open its website to people wishing to comment on the municipality becoming a Willing Host for solar and wind power.
There is considerable public opposition to a major wind and solar proposal now before council from Samsung Renewable Energy.
Southgate is working on an agreement with Samsung before deciding to becoming a Willing Host.
Samsung Renewable Energy and its affiliate, Pattern Energy, are proposing to build 40 wind turbines in the east half of Southgate and a 700-acre solar farm in the northwest part of the township.
PC Energy Critic and MPP Lisa MacLeod demands to know the whole truth and nothing but about the hard drives. (Note the Speaker chastising the Minister of the Environment, James Bradley.)
Can you answer beyond a “shadow of a doubt”???
Parker Gallant on Hydro One: service for our customers!
|The promises pile up at Hydro One; so do complaints|
Hydro One: aiming to improve $ervice to customers
Energy Minister Bob Charelli announced on March 7 that Sandra Pupatello was to be the new Chair of Hydro One. We wouldn’t have thought she needed the work: Ms Pupatello is already CEO of Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation, and will retain that job. The prior CEO of that corporation pulled in $160,000 annually so Ms. Pupatello, with an additional $150,000 for chairing Hydro One, will give pocket a possible combined income of over $300,000. This appointment, along with that of Bernard Lord to Chair at OPG, is being touted as the way to cure all ills at these two provincial Crown corporations, both of which have received a lot of attention. OPG was castigated by the Auditor General in her 2013 annual report for high salaries, too many managers, and a gold-plated pension plan. Hydro One is under investigation by the Ontario Ombudsman, Andre Marin. Now, “investigation” by the Ombudsman is not the same as “under investigation” by the OPP, but Mr. Marin has a way of getting to the heart of a matter that seems to attract media attention. Since the February announcement the Ombudsman’s Office reports it has received in excess of 6,500 complaints, and is getting over 200 calls per day.
Some of the complaints were astounding. One of the publicly disclosed complaints from Beaver Valley Ski Club occurred before the Ombudsman announcement. The club got a shocking bill for $37,000 in the summer of 2013, complained and got an apology along with a revised bill for $37 million. Other individuals were billed for thousands of dollars and had their power had been shut off; still others, on a automated payment plan, had their accounts debited for thousands of dollars for incorrect bills.
I am not surprised. I have written several articles about Hydro One and their excesses that have been glossed over since the Liberals gained power. Several years ago, I asked for and received, a hard copy of Hydro One’s “Conditions of Service” (CoS) and was shocked to receive a 100-page document. The CoS has grown to a 134-page legal nightmare that can be found on the Hydro One website. (If you do key word searches on the CoS you will get 14 hits for “non-financial default,” 45 hits for “rate class,” 8 hits for “Hydro One’s discretion” and a definition: “Energy Meter” means “a meter that measures a Customer’s energy consumption.” Why does a monopoly owned by the province need a 134-page CoS?
After receiving Hydro One’s announcement about their new billing system, I described it as a $160-million revenue grab. Their 2012 annual report disclosed “other” capital expenditures of $350 million and in that report was this statement: “These expenditures include the replacement of our customer billing system to address end-of-life requirements and to further productivity realization from our enterprise-wide SAP platform.” That doesn’t seem to have happened but now apparently there is hope as the Toronto Star article on Pupatello’s appointment carried this quote: “ ‘We are going to fix it,’ Pupatello said of the overbilling problem.”
Shortly after Andre Marin announced his investigation of Hydro One’s billing mess, they released their 2013 annual results reporting a fourth consecutive annual record profit of $803 million coupled with a record amount of revenue. The press release of February 14, 2014 carried quotes from Carm Marcello, President and CEO, along with several notes.
First was a weak explanation and apology for the “new customer billing system.” The apology finished with the laughable “We want to assure our customers that ultimately, they will only pay for the electricity they use.”
To achieve that, we would have to believe in the ability of the “smart meters” to, as noted in the CoS, “measure[s] a Customer’s energy consumption.” With Hydro One’s admission that they have had to replace thousands of smart meters, [full disclosure: including both my son’s and my own “smart meters”) I’m not so confident! The ability of thenew billing system to interact with the smart meters is key to the Ombudsman’s investigation and the thousands of complaints he has received.
Other notes included the fact that Hydro One’s staff worked 385,000 overtime hours on storm-related work, including 250,000 hours on weekends and holidays to restore power. That might explain why their operations, maintenance and overhead costs increased by $35 million (almost 4%) but they still managed an increase of $58 million (+7.8%) in after PIL earnings.
Is the $923 million reported as “Accounts receivable (net of allowance for doubtful accounts)” a true figure? I have to ask, because on such things like the Beaver Valley Ski Club $37 million mistake, the over 6,500 complaints received by the Ombudsman’s office as of March 19th, 2014, and the overtime racked up for the Christmas ice storm. Was that overtime cost accounted for? On the billing cycle, Hydro One allow 19 days from their billing date to payment date which would suggest if all bills were paid “on time” without penalty, outstanding bills would account for $321 million, yet receivables at year end would indicate “past due” accounts are double that amount. That makes one wonder how much of those past due bills are represented in complaints to the Ombudsman!
Other notes include the reasoning behind capital expenditures of $1.394 billion which are “to improve system reliability to address our aging power system to improve service to our customers, and to facilitate the connection of new, clean generation.” Hydro One has failed on the first target but has done the job on “new clean generation” — ratepayers’ bills keep rising!
©Parker Gallant, March 27, 2014
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent Wind Concerns Ontario policy.