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MPP John Vanthof’s 2017 Year End Report

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As 2017 draws to a close, it is a good time to reflect on notable events that have happened here in the riding of Timiskaming-Cochrane, and throughout the Province over the past 12 months.

Sadly, the year started as it will end, with many Northerners especially worried about the condition and safety of our provincial road system due to ongoing concerns about winter road maintenance. Consistent and reliable winter road maintenance for all classifications of highways in the North has been a significant and ongoing concern since I was first elected in 2011; despite some changes made by Government, it remains a #1 priority.  Because highway management was privatized as a cost-saving measure, the structure of the maintenance contracts allows for road management decisions to be made by private companies, instead of Ministry of Transportation (MTO) staff. Although the MTO completes inspections and responds to complaints, their involvement begins after the issue of concern is identified. Typically, the MTO manages issues of concern by imposing fines or levies on the private company when standards are not met; however, this delayed reaction does not improve road safety during critical weather patterns. We will continue to push for improvement, and ultimately, a return to a system where the MTO actively manages our provincial roads.  Safe road conditions should be the priority, not the profit on the bottom line.  

The loss of passenger rail service continues to be an issue throughout the Northeast. Since the Liberal government cancelled the Northlander in 2012, Northerners have felt cut off from the rest of the province. Though the Wynne Government boasts about spending on transit in Ontario, they do not seem to have a problem leaving Northerners stranded.

Another issue of great concern to the people of the area is high electricity costs. Hydro bills have reached a point where people are having to make quality of life choices about household bills, especially here in our cold climate. In June, the NDP announced a hydro plan that would drop hydro rates by 30% in rural Ontario, by initiating a strategy that would regain control of Hydro One, make time-of-use metering optional and eliminate extra rural delivery charges. The Wynne Government responded with its own plan, which basically reduces hydro rates for the short term; however, the cost will be reassigned to our hydro bills once the election is over in June 2018. The current Government’s hydro plan is a temporary relief measure that will cost consumers far more in the long run. As the 2017 year begins to wind down, the NDP continues to lead the fight against the pay-before-use hydro metering program being proposed by Hydro One.

Health care continues as a major issue in the province, with a broad range of concerns at the forefront. In rapidly growing areas, hospital overcrowding is at crisis levels; in the rural areas, just keeping the hospital doors open has become increasingly difficult. Hospital budgets have been stretched to the limit and shortfalls from financial neglect are becoming evident. Here in the Northeast, there is an inability to provide a sustainable program to allow access to non -emergency patient transfers. While the cost of non-emergency transfers is absorbed in the overall budgets of large health centers, small rural hospitals cannot offset the need for service in their smaller budgets. As a result, this shortfall causes excruciating delays for the patients, especially the elderly. Moving in to 2018, the NDP will continue to advocate for increased long term care funding in an effort to alleviate the situation. Additionally, the lack of mental health services in the North has come to the breaking point, with insufficient mental health professionals and dedicated health care beds to meet the growing need for timely care in our communities. As the year comes to a close, far too many families are dealing with the tragic consequences of this healthcare service shortfall. 

One local issue that is truly emblematic of the challenges that we face in the North was the unannounced closure of the LCBO outlet in Larder Lake, a town whose economy is very dependent on tourism. In other parts of Ontario, this type of closure of a government service would be unacceptable, especially since the next closest LCBO outlet is 30 kilometers away in Kirkland Lake. The residents and seasonal visitors have fought valiantly to re-instate the outlet store through rallies, social media and a letter-writing campaign.  The community even produced a video, which was viewed by thousands online. Though the fight is not over yet, the lack of commitment by this Government to services in the North is staggering.

Many local residents, and students were severely impacted by a lengthy strike at Ontario’s community colleges. Throughout the strike, the NDP urged the Premier to use her power to advance negotiations between the parties. Unfortunately, Premier Wynne chose to wait until the semester was in true peril for many students; rather than taking proactive steps to help in the negotiation process, she introduced back-to-work legislation. We continue to advocate for students who have been impacted.   

While there are many issues that we have dealt with over the past year, I have only highlighted a few of the high-profile and ongoing concerns broadly affecting our region. On the legislative side, I introduced a motion to create a Northern Committee that would be made up of all MPPs from the North. The Northern Committee’s mandate would be to review and amend any legislation to ensure that it be considered in relation to the realities of Northern Ontario life. Though the motion passed, the current Government is once again ignoring the North by not moving forward with implementation of the motion.

Once again, it has been an incredible honour to represent the residents of Timiskaming -Cochrane at Queens Park in 2017. My staff and I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year-  we look forward to working for you in 2018  and  hopefully, beyond.

John Vanthof
MPP Timiskaming-Cochrane


 


 

2018 Ordre de la Pléiade Recipiendaire: Albert Gauthier

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A very well-deserved congratulations to Albert Gauthier as he prepares to be inducted into the distinguished Ordre de la Pléiade for 2018. As presented by the Ontario Branch of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie (APF), the Ordre recognizes exceptional contributions to the Francophonie in Ontario.

Albert is being celebrated for his commitment to our local agricultural community, as well as his tireless volunteerism with the Earlton Lions Club, the Centre de santé communautaire du Témiskaming, the Caisse Populaire d’Earlton and the Dairy Farmers of Ontario (to name a few!). As Vice President of the 2009 International Plowing Match, he helped create an unforgettable experience for thousands of visitors to our region.

Congratulations Albert!


 

Les libéraux font la sourde oreille à l’université franco : NPD

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QUEEN’S PARK – La députée de Nickel Belt et porte-parole des affaires francophones du NPD, France Gélinas, dénonce le gouvernement pour « avoir fait la sourde oreille aux recommandations et demandes de la communauté franco-ontarienne » en refusant de même considérer des amendements à l’annexe qui va créer l’université de l’Ontario français.

Le projet de loi 177 sur les mesures budgétaire contient une annexe qui crée l’université de l’Ontario français, un rêve de la communauté franco-ontarienne datant de plus d’un demi-siècle. L’annexe 43 est problématique à plusieurs niveaux.  Elle accorde à l’université le droit de « décerner des certificats et des diplômes en arts, en sciences et en commerce. » Mme Gélinas prévient que cet article limiterait le potentiel de l’institution, et a donc proposé d’étendre le mandat de l’université à «tous les domaines de la connaissance», y compris l’architecture, les beaux-arts, le droit, l’ingénierie sciences, médecine et soins infirmiers. Mme Gélinas rappelle qu’on a un manque sévère de professeurs et de professionnels de la santé francophones en Ontario.

« Le gouvernement avait assuré à l’AFO qu’il apporterait ces changements à l’annexe 43, mais l’amendement promis n’a pas vu le jour, » disait Mme Gélinas. « Évidemment les recommandations de la communauté franco-ontarienne sur ses propres institutions vaut très peu chez le gouvernement libéral. »

Mme Gélinas et le NPD a aussi proposé quatre autres amendements en vue d’assurer que la gouvernance et la mission de l’université répondent aux besoins de la jeunesse et de la communauté franco-ontarienne. L’AFO et ses partenaires ainsi que le NPD en ont fait demande à plusieurs reprises au cours des derniers mois afin que le comité de mise en œuvre de l’université comporte des sièges communautaires et jeunesses. De plus, la mission de l’université devrait être d’offrir aux étudiants et étudiantes l’occasion de suivre tous leur cours universitaires et de faire toutes leurs études en français, et de faciliter l’accès aux études universitaires en français aux communautés isolées.

L’annexe 12 du projet de la loi 177 concerne le Centre Jules-Léger, la seule école francophone adaptée pour les enfants ayant des besoins spéciaux dans la province.  La députée a de graves inquiétudes concernant le financement du Centre, pour que l’établissement puisse répondre aux besoins des élèves et aux exigences du ministère de l’Éducation de l’Ontario. Mme Gélinas a proposé deux amendements simples pour régler ce problème. La première précisait que le ministère de l’Éducation, dans la première année après la déclaration de l’annexe 12 de la loi, doit entreprendre un examen du financement du Centre Jules-Léger et augmenter le budget du Centre si nécessaire. De plus, Mme Gélinas proposait que l’édifice du Centre Jules-Léger soit transféré d’Infrastructure Ontario au nouveau Consortium.

Le gouvernement libéral n’a pas accepté de débattre d’aucun de ces amendements.

Dangerous road conditions continue to threaten driver safety and leave northern Ontario families stranded: NDP

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QUEEN’S PARK—In question period on Tuesday, Timiskaming—Cochrane NDP MPP John Vanthof called on the Wynne government to make northern highways safer by improving winter maintenance standards.

“Last Friday morning, Dec. 8, there was a tragic collision on Highway 11,” said Vanthof. “Two transports collided on the Pan Lake corner, and our thoughts go out to the families of the deceased. What makes this even more tragic is on November 24 of last year, on exactly the same corner, another person in a transport lost their life. What makes this even more tragic is on December 12, 2012, again in the same place, another life was lost.

“Each time the highway is closed, people in northern Ontario are cut off because there is no detour. People are starting to be very afraid to drive on the Trans-Canada.”

According to the most recent statistics provided in the 2014 Ontario Road Safety report, the occupants of a vehicle registered in Temiskaming are four times more likely to die on a provincial highway in that district, than occupants of vehicles registered anywhere else in Ontario.

“That’s why the government has to step in,” said Vanthof. “To the towns and the people, the road is starting to be seen as a death trap, and I don’t say that lightly. This is just one example. We have to step in and actually do the right thing.

“We don’t have subways,” said Vanthof.  “We don’t have passenger trains. We don’t have LRTs. We have one road, and it needs to be safe, Minister, now.”


Hansard – December 12, 2017 – Question Period

Highway safety

Mr. John Vanthof: My question is to the Deputy Premier. Last Friday morning, December 8, there was a tragic collision on Highway 11. Two transports collided on the Pan Lake corner, and our thoughts go out to the families of the deceased.

What makes this even more tragic is on November 24 of last year, on exactly the same corner, another person in a transport lost their life.

What makes this even more tragic is on December 12, 2012, again in the same place, another life was lost.

Each time the highway is closed, people in northern Ontario are cut off because there is no detour. People are starting to be very afraid to drive on the Trans-Canada. When will the minister step in and ensure that winter maintenance standards and highway construction is actually done correctly on this stretch of road?

Hon. Deborah Matthews: To the Minister of Transportation.

Hon. Steven Del Duca: I thank the member from Timiskaming–Cochrane for the question. He and I have had a chance to speak about this informally here in the chamber over the last couple of days. I have explained to him that I will ask the ministry—in fact, I have asked the ministry to go and take a look specifically at this particular section of Highway 11 that, as he points out in his question, has had some challenges over the last couple of years. That’s work that we will undertake, and I’d be happy to inform him and/or the House once I have that update for him.

I will say, over the last couple of years as it relates specifically to the winter maintenance program that the ministry runs, we have continued to invest significantly in terms of the resources that are needed both in the north for our northern highways and also in the south. We have more pieces of equipment out on our roads and highways, including in northern Ontario, than we have had certainly prior to the last three years. We are constantly working with our communities and working with our contractor partners to make sure that we have the appropriate resources deployed, and I’ll have more to say in a follow-up answer to this question.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. John Vanthof: Since my discussion with the minister, I’ve also had some time to do some research. According to the most recent statistics provided by the government in a 2014 Ontario Road Safety Annual Report, the occupants of a vehicle registered in the district of Timiskaming are four times more likely to die in a collision than occupants of vehicles registered anywhere else in Ontario, and that’s because they have to drive on that road.

That’s why the government has to step in and look. To the towns, the people, that road is starting to be seen as a death trap, and I don’t say that lightly. This is just one example. We have to step in and actually do the right thing.

We don’t have subways. We don’t have passenger trains. We don’t have LRTs. We have one road, and it needs to be safe, Minister, now.

Hon. Steven Del Duca: I thank the member from Timiskaming–Cochrane for his follow-up question. I certainly respect not only his advocacy, but his passion which is obviously clear in the way that he has asked the question today.

I will say, as I said in my opening answer, our government continues to invest in our winter maintenance program, including in northern Ontario. It seems—

Ms. Catherine Fife: That’s not what the auditor says.

Hon. Steven Del Duca: Notwithstanding what the member from Kitchener just said, from the NDP caucus, in fact the auditor did recognize last year that we had made substantial improvements in the program, both in Kitchener and in the north of the province. Having said that, I understand that our work is not yet done. The member’s question ties in both highway construction and investments in the infrastructure and also the winter maintenance program. I’ve already referenced what we’re doing in winter maintenance.

I will also say, Speaker: As I believe all members know, over the last number of years, certainly, in the last couple in particular, the amount of money that we are investing as a government in our northern highways program is unprecedented, but we know that we have to continue to do more, and in subsequent years through budgets presented by the Minister of Finance, I have no doubt that we’ll continue to invest in this and in other highways to make—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. New question.

NDP: Dishonestly claimed hydro money must be paid back in full

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QUEEN’S PARK – The NDP is demanding that every dollar of the $260 million apparently fraudulently claimed by power producers and paid out by Liberal government regulators be returned to the people of Ontario.

On Tuesday, Ontario families were finally told about a private gas plant in Brampton that was paid over $100 million dollars in ‘inappropriate claims’. On Wednesday, the Auditor General’s 2017 report showed that there are eight other power producers gaming the Liberal electricity system in similar ways – at a cost of $260 million to the people of the province, which may be just the tip of the iceberg.

So far, only $168 million has been recovered. NDP Finance critic John Vanthof questioned the Wynne Liberals Thursday in question period.                                                                      

“People are being squeezed in Ontario. Hydro rates have gone up 300 per cent under the Liberals and some families are even being forced to choose whether to keep the lights on, or put food on the table,” said Vanthof.

“Why is this government allowing private power companies to take advantage of hard working families who are already struggling?”

In addition to the $260 million in apparently fraudulent expenses, the AG found other instances of inappropriate claims being paid by government regulators. The Liberal government is overpaying gas generators by more than $30 million per year, and in just one summer, shelled out an additional $20 million to another company under the Lost Profit Recovery program.

“From the privatization of power generation by the Conservatives to the sell-off of Hydro One by Kathleen Wynne, the system is now set up to turn everyday Ontario families into a cash cow for private energy corporations,” said Vanthof.

Andrea Horwath and the New Democrats have released a detailed hydro plan that would require the electricity system to work in favour of Ontario families. It includes bringing Hydro One back into public hands to lower bills, and keep them down. In their recently announced election platform, the Patrick Brown and the Conservatives make it clear that the Conservative plan is to stand behind Wynne’s disastrous privatization and $40 billion Liberal borrowing scheme.

“Only New Democrats are ready to fix this problem and bring down hydro bills for Ontario families and businesses,” said Vanthof. “Patrick Brown and Kathleen Wynne are in lock-step on hydro, and their plan puts the squeeze on families. The NDP plan is different. It offers hope that things will get easier for families.”

Families paying for Wynne’s hydro failures: Auditor’s report shows families being let down on hydro, health care, housing and more

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QUEEN’S PARK – Kathleen Wynne has allowed private power companies to rip off Ontario families to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, according to Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk’s scathing 2017 Annual Report, released Wednesday.

“From the privatization of power generation by the Conservatives to the sell-off of Hydro One by Kathleen Wynne, the system is now set up to turn everyday Ontario families into a cash cow for private energy corporations,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. “I think Ontarians will be disgusted to see how many millions of dollars extra they’re are paying for electricity.”

Among the auditor’s findings: IESO programs are paying gas and coal generators $30 million more than necessary each year. One program encourages inefficiency that cost families and businesses $19 million over just one summer. Nine generators collected $260 million they’re not entitled to, more than a third of which was never recovered. These costs are just the tip of the iceberg.

Horwath and the NDP have released a plan to reverse this damage and substantially reduce hydro bills by bringing the electricity system back into public hands, starting with Hydro One. Conservative Patrick Brown recently announced that his party is now on board with Wynne’s hydro schemes – his platform says he would make no changes if elected.

PATIENTS LET DOWN

Lysyk’s report also paints a picture of Ontario patients being let down by Kathleen Wynne.

The Liberals’ privatization of hospitals – so-called public-private partnerships, or P3s – are diverting dollars out of hospital operating budgets, away from patient care. Instead, that money is paying for higher-than-reasonable rates for privatized maintenance costs not covered by the original deal.

And the overpayments continue when it comes to drugs. By failing to negotiate better prices on generic medications, the auditor found the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is paying 85 per cent more than some Ontario hospitals.

Horwath has introduced a complete phARmacare plan – one that will provide drug coverage for every Ontarian, regardless of age, income or job status.

FAMILIES WHO NEED AFFORDABLE HOUSING LET DOWN

The auditor’s annual report also points out that for the first time, the number of people on the wait list for affordable housing exceeds the number of people actually in affordable housing – and 83,000 existing units are at risk of being mothballed.

Kathleen Wynne has refused to fund the province’s share of repairs to affordable housing units. Horwath has promised that if she takes office, the province will fulfill its commitment to a one-third share of funding for affordable and social housing repairs.

WHILE LETTING FAMILIES DOWN, GOVERNMENT SPENDS ON ITS RE-ELECTION BID

According to the Auditor, Kathleen Wynne spent a record $58 million on government advertising – at least one-third of which was on blatantly partisan re-election ads. In 2015, the Wynne Liberals loosened government advertising rules, eliminating the Auditor General’s authority to block partisan ad spending.

“Instead of doing what’s right when it comes to hydro, health care and the services we all count on, Kathleen Wynne is trying to hold on to the premier’s office by spending public money to promote herself and her Liberal party,” said Horwath. “That’s exactly the kind of tactic that has caused millions of people to decide that it’s time for change, and that Wynne has got to go.

“But the question now is: what comes next? Patrick Brown has vowed to cut $6.1 billion in jobs and services. Jobs, nurses, health care services and resources in our children’s classrooms are all at risk with Patrick Brown’s Conservatives.

“It’s time for a plan that gives families hope that it’s going to get easier. A plan to improve services instead of cutting them. A plan to make life more affordable instead of hiking hydro bills. That’s what I’m promising to do, and I’m proud of our plan to make life better for everyday families.”

NDP calls on Wynne Liberals to repay $100M fraudulently tacked onto hydro bills

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Private Brampton gas plant gamed Liberal hydro system

QUEEN’S PARK – A private gas plant in Brampton gamed the Liberal government’s system for managing private electricity contracts, and now the NDP wants to know how Ontario families will be paid back for the $100 million that was passed onto hydro-bill payers as a result.

Over a three-year period, the gas plant collected more than $100 million in what the OEB called “inappropriate expenses” in a report exposing the fraud.

“That $100 million dollars went onto the hydro bills of everyday families,” said NDP MPP John Vanthof during question period Tuesday. “What is the Liberal government doing to repay them?”

The OEB investigation found the majority of the $100-million loss was through the Generation Cost Guarantee program. According to the investigation, the private Brampton gas plant’s manipulation of the program was obvious, and should have been discovered much earlier. Adding insult to injury, the OEB report on the chronic manipulation of the Liberal government’s program was completed almost a year ago, but was only released very quietly on the OEB website in November.

“There should be serious consequences for stealing money from the people of this province – people who are already suffering under the weight of sky-high hydro bills,” said Vanthof. “This $100 million is a massive fraud and the people of Ontario are the victims. Why did the Liberal government keep this information quiet?”

While hydro bills have already been painful for families, Hydro One continues to apply for hikes on hydro bills.

“The bottom line is that everyday families have already paid for these failures of privatization in our hydro system,” said Vanthof. “It’s time for a new plan to give families hope that bills will start going down, instead of continuing to go up.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath released a hydro plan in early 2016 which will put Hydro One back in public hands, and reduce everyone’s bills by about 30 per cent. Horwath’s plan ends mandatory time-of-use pricing. Meanwhile, Patrick Brown and the Conservatives recently committed to stand behind every aspect of Kathleen Wynne’s hydro scheme.


Hansard

*************

LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO

Tuesday 5 December 2017

Energy policies

Mr. John Vanthof: My question is to the Acting Premier. This morning we learned through media reports that a private natural gas plant in Brampton gamed the Liberal government system for managing private electricity contracts. Over a three-year period, the company cost Ontario families and businesses nearly $100 million in what the Ontario Energy Board calls “inappropriate expenses.” That’s $100 million that went onto the hydro bills of everyday families. What is the Liberal government doing to ensure that those families are paid back?

Hon. Deborah Matthews: To the Minister of Economic Development and Growth.

Hon. Brad Duguid: Again, I appreciate the member’s question. It’s tough sometimes when you’re in the third party and the question is asked initially, a response is given and then you have to ask it, but I think it’s important for all of us to pay close attention these kinds of issues.

Look, there’s no defending a company that tries to game the system. It’s totally inappropriate. I think what we need to do is make sure we have structures in place to ensure that we know what happened and why, and that the appropriate measures are taken to recover whatever losses have been had. The IESO has taken those measures, fully investigated the matter. They’ve recovered most of the costs, and in fact, they’ve delivered a $10-million record fine. I think on the surface that appears appropriate to me.

As well, measures have been taken to ensure that this kind of gaming cannot happen again in the future. There’s also a significant restructuring going on, called “market renewal,” that will further address the gaming issue. I thank the member for the question.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. John Vanthof: The Ontario Energy Board investigation notes that majority of the $100 million this company received was through the generation cost guarantee program, a Liberal government program. According to the investigation, the private Brampton gas plant’s manipulation of the program was obvious and should have been discovered much earlier.

There should be serious consequences for stealing money from the people of this province, people who are already suffering under the weight of sky-high hydro bills, so I’ll ask again: How will families be reimbursed for the $100 million that the Liberal government paid to this private gas plant in Brampton?

Hon. Brad Duguid: I agree with the member. There should be serious consequences to any person or any company who tries to gain governments of any type or any organization, for that matter. In this case, there was a $10-million fine levied, a record fine. In this case, as well, in answer to his question, the costs have been recovered so taxpayers have been reimbursed for the majority of the costs.

The matter was fully investigated by the IESO. It did take some time to investigate because, I expect, this is a fairly complex matter. The matter was posted on record, and the fine was posted on the OEB website, which I think is appropriate. As I said, measures have been taken to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

I think the member is quite right to be concerned about this, as we are, as I know the minister is, and it’s an inappropriate action that took place.

I do think, on the surface, what I see so far is the IESO has responded appropriately.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Final supplementary.

Mr. John Vanthof: This information came to light this morning only after the CBC went digging and found the report, which was completed almost a year ago. There was no fancy press release. This $100 million is a massive fraud and the people of Ontario are the victims. Why did this Liberal government keep this information so quiet and not do a press release, as it does with all other hydro announcements?

Hon. Brad Duguid: Mr. Speaker, the amount recovered, as I said before, is the vast majority of the amount that was lost. In fact, there’s a $10-million fine on top of that. So on the surface it looks as though justice has been done with this company. There is no defending what this company has done. The taxpayer has been reimbursed for the funds, which I think is probably the most important thing.

Also important, Mr. Speaker, is number 1, to ensure that the company does pay a price, and they did, but number 2, to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. I know that the IESO has taken measures to ensure this kind of gaming could not happen again, and I don’t have the details of what those measures are. I know the minister would probably have that.

Also, they’re restructuring the system so this won’t happen again in the new system.

Energy policies

Mr. John Vanthof: Once again, my question is to the Acting Premier. Private gas plants in Ontario are gaming the Liberal system for payments to the tune of $100 million while the Liberal government keeps the information quiet.

They are also standing by while the privatized Hydro One plans to install prepay hydro meters to get around the current ban on wintertime hydro disconnections. Since we know the Liberal government can direct Hydro One to do things that benefit their party, will the Acting Premier direct Hydro One to do something that will actually help the people of Ontario, and stop the private company from using prepay hydro meters?

Hon. Deborah Matthews: Minister of Economic Development and Growth.

Hon. Brad Duguid: Mr. Speaker, I think sometimes the NDP, when they get a hold of word, they try to vilify the word. So the word of the week is “prepaid hydro meters,” as though somehow prepaid bills are something that is somehow bad for people.

The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, the minister has made it very, very clear that nobody will be in any way told that they have to have a prepaid meter. It will be a choice.

There are folks who, in light of budgeting, would prefer to have their bills prepaid. It gives a choice to consumers to be able to do that. There’s nothing untoward; there’s nothing evil. There’s nothing non-transparent about this—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Wrap up, please.

Hon. Brad Duguid: I don’t know why the NDP would want to take away that choice from consumers, Mr. Speaker, to be frank.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. John Vanthof: Speaker, let’s be clear: Prepay meters will hurt vulnerable Ontarians. They take away the option of working out a payment schedule if families get behind on their bills and instead force them to feed the meter or go without heat during the winter.

The Premier and her Liberal government seem quite willing to direct Hydro One’s activities when the result is a benefit to the Liberal Party. Why won’t they do the same when the benefit would be for struggling Ontario families?

Hon. Brad Duguid: It’s just not true, Mr. Speaker. What the member is saying is just completely false. No residential customer will be without power during the winter months regardless of the type of meter used. That’s just a bogus argument—I guess trying again to vilify a word called “prepaid metres.”

Mr. Speaker, there are all kinds of circumstances where consumers will prepay their bills. Sometimes it’s a budgeting issue. Sometimes consumers prefer to do that so that they don’t fall behind or if they’re on a commission-type of salary, to ensure that they have a little bit of room left. Some people even prepay their taxes to governments to ensure that, indeed—it just helps them with their budgeting. It’s a choice for consumers to opt in. Nobody will ever be forced to do this. It’s not evil. There’s nothing that affects vulnerable people in any way about this. It just gives them another option, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Final supplementary?

Mr. John Vanthof: The Liberal government’s defence of prepaid hydro meters is mind-boggling. Their inability to detect $100-million fraud is beyond belief. The bottom line is that, every day, families are paying for these failures of privatization in our hydro system.

Why is this Liberal government spending its time defending the private electricity system that clearly is not working in the best interests of Ontario families?

Hon. Brad Duguid: It’s a two-part question. We wouldn’t even be talking about this Goreway issue at all if the matter hadn’t been detected so I’m not sure what the member is talking about. He says that the matter hadn’t been detected. If the matter had not been detected then the IESO wouldn’t have launched an investigation. If the matter hadn’t been detected then the IESO would not have recovered the majority of the costs. If the matter hadn’t have been detected then the IESO wouldn’t have registered a $10-million record fine.

What the member is saying, Mr. Speaker—I actually find mind-boggling what that question is. Why would we be talking about this had it not been detected?

NDP MPP Gilles Bisson announces bill to protect Ontario families from gasoline price gouging

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NDP MPP Gilles Bisson announces bill to protect Ontario famili…

NDP MPP Gilles Bisson announces bill to protect Ontario families from gasoline price gouging Cliquez-ici pour la version française: https://www.facebook.com/GillesBissonONDP/videos/1510351799049247/ QUEEN’S PARK –On Friday, Timmins-James Bay NDP MPP Gilles Bisson announced his intention to table a private member’s bill to protect consumers from price gouging by regulating the retail price and wholesale mark-up of petroleum products in Ontario. “Gas companies and refineries have been gouging Ontario families for far too long” said Bisson. “They are currently an unregulated commodity and they can charge us whatever they want. This is just wrong and it needs to end.”On Thursday according to GasBuddy, gas sold for 101.7 in Hagersville while in Thunder Bay it sold for 139.9—that’s almost $0.40 per litre difference. Even within the same regional markets, we are seeing large price swings. Thursday, the price of gas in Timmins was 128.9 while less than 2 hours away on Highway 11, the price in Kapuskasing was 114.6. “The average price of oil has been between $50 and $55 per barrel, yet the retail price of gas per litre does not reflect the barrel price” Bisson stated. “If we can sell a case of beer or a bottle of wine for the same price in Cornwall and Kenora, certainly we should be able to bring fairness in the price of gas.”Bisson’s bill, Fairness in Petroleum Products Pricing Act, 2017, will allow the Ontario Energy Board to regulate the retail price and wholesale mark-up of petroleum products in Ontario. The Lieutenant Governor in Council will be given power to govern the Board. The Bill will guide the Ontario Energy Board and Lieutenant Governor in Council to: protect the interest of consumers with respect to the predictable and consistent retail pricing of petroleum products; prevent pricing practices that undermine the stability and competitiveness of retail markets for petroleum products, including retail markets in remote, rural and northern areas; and ensure transparency and reasonableness with respect to the prices of petroleum products. Bisson plans to introduce this legislation early next week.

Posted by Gilles Bisson, MPP Timmins-James Bay on Friday, November 24, 2017

QUEEN’S PARK –On Friday, Timmins-James Bay NDP MPP Gilles Bisson announced his intention to table a private member’s bill to protect consumers from price gouging by regulating the retail price and wholesale mark-up of petroleum products in Ontario.

“Gas companies and refineries have been gouging Ontario families for far too long,” said Bisson. “They are currently an unregulated commodity and they can charge us whatever they want. This is just wrong and it needs to end.”

On Thursday according to GasBuddy, gas sold for 101.7 in Hagersville while in Thunder Bay it sold for 139.9—that’s almost $0.40 per litre difference. Even within the same regional markets, we are seeing large price swings. Thursday, the price of gas in Timmins was 128.9 while less than 2 hours away on Highway 11, the price in Kapuskasing was 114.6.

“The average price of oil has been between $50 and $55 per barrel, yet the retail price of gas per litre does not reflect the barrel price,” Bisson stated. “If we can sell a case of beer or a bottle of wine for the same price in Cornwall and Kenora, certainly we should be able to bring fairness in the price of gas.”

Bisson’s bill, Fairness in Petroleum Products Pricing Act, 2017, will allow the Ontario Energy Board to regulate the retail price and wholesale mark-up of petroleum products in Ontario. The Lieutenant Governor in Council will be given power to govern the Board. The Bill will guide the Ontario Energy Board and Lieutenant Governor in Council to: protect the interest of consumers with respect to the predictable and consistent retail pricing of petroleum products; prevent pricing practices that undermine the stability and competitiveness of retail markets for petroleum products, including retail markets in remote, rural and northern areas; and ensure transparency and reasonableness with respect to the prices of petroleum products.

Bisson plans to introduce this legislation early next week.

NDP concerned about college students missing licensing exams following strike

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NDP demands Wynne offer better support and compensation for students

QUEEN’S PARK – Kathleen Wynne refused to step in and help end the colleges strike earlier, letting it drag on for five weeks – and for some students, that now means they’ll miss entrance exams.

“We are now learning that because of the extended semester, some students wishing to write their paralegal entrance exam with the Law Society won’t be finished in time for the February exam sitting – putting students behind by at least six months,” said NDP Advanced Education critic Peggy Sattler. “Given the fact that the Liberal government sat on the sidelines for five weeks and did nothing to help prevent or resolve the strike, is the premier working on a solution for these students?”

Sattler said the paralegal licensing exams, scheduled by the Law Society of Upper Canada for February, are just one example of the consequences of the strike for students. The Law Society requires final grades from college students be submitted by Jan. 2 in order for students to write the February exam. But because of the extended semester, some students won’t receive final grades until as late as Jan. 20 – disqualifying them from the February sitting, and delaying their entrance into their chosen field. The next licensing exam sitting is scheduled for July, 2018.

She pointed to co-ops as another area students say they may not be able to make up for the missed time, along with practicums for programs like nursing and police training.

“Kathleen Wynne needs to step up here and help these students,” said Sattler. “Not only are students being forced to cram five weeks of learning into two, and not only are students trying to deal with a financial burden that in many cases exceeds the $500 Student Hardship Fund, but missing these standard exams, co-op placements and practicum hours just adds insult to injury.”

Sattler and Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath have been advocating for increased supports for students after the Wynne Liberals allowed a five-week strike to drag on before passing Conservative-style back-to-work legislation to send faculty back to work without solving any of the problems. Sattler has called for the removal of the $500 cap on the Student Hardship Fund, and criticized the Wynne Liberals for their decision to force students to drop out of college entirely and lose a spot in their program in order to get a refund, if they feel they can’t manage the workload of the condensed semester and want a January fresh start.

“For five weeks, Kathleen Wynne did nothing to help bring about a fair resolution to this strike,” said Sattler. “Now she is not doing enough to help the students hurt by her inaction. The NDP would make sure that every single student in this province has the tools they need to make the semester work – that should include talking to organizations like the Law Society to make sure that the licensing exam is postponed long enough that students won’t be forced to wait until July.”

Hydro One’s plan to have customers pre-pay for electricity will hurt families: NDP

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QUEEN’S PARK—In question period on Tuesday, Ontario NDP Energy critic Peter Tabuns called on the Wynne Liberals to stand up for Ontario families and direct the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) to stop the privatized Hydro One’s plan to require pre-payment for power.
 
Hidden in Hydro One’s distribution rate application for 2018-2022 are plans to replace recently installed smart meters with pre-payment meters, requiring customers to pay for electricity before they use it and creating a loophole to new rules banning winter disconnections.
“Instead of reducing its rates, as the government promised would happen, the privatized Hydro One is seeking a 20 per cent increase,” said Tabuns. “But there’s more. On page 2,038 of the application, we learn that Hydro One wants to install pre-payment meters, which require the customer to pay first before they get any electricity.
“Everywhere pre-payment meters have been used, they have hurt struggling families.”
Recently, the OEB issued a directive banning licensed electricity distributors from disconnecting homes for non-payment during winter months, but pre-payment meters would allow Hydro One to bypass this rule. Tabuns said the Liberal government is allowing the privatized Hydro One to use harmful Thatcher-era tactics to bypass the OEB directive and stop providing power to families that are unable to pay.
“After Margaret Thatcher privatized the UK’s water system, utilities began installing these pre-payment meters,” said Tabuns. “They hurt struggling families and created a public health crisis. The premier has hurt families in Ontario by privatizing Hydro One. Hydro One is installing pre-payment hydro meters so it can bypass Ontario’s rules for disconnections. Hydro One won’t have to disconnect anyone. The power will get cut off automatically if the customer doesn’t feed the meter.”
“Will the government direct the Ontario Energy Board to prohibit Hydro One’s use of pre-payment meters?” asked Tabuns.