November 21, 2005

Subsidies and Ontario Energy; Both Problems for the Ontario Right

After putting out a bunch of posts I went and hit a block of sorts and the best I came up with was me whining about Canadian athletes selling processed food. Today, still feeling somewhat up against the block, I decided to do some blog hopping. While I was reading the latest blog flare up Canadian Cynic and Peace, Order and Good Government versus Strong World, I noticed a reference to Wudrick Blog. I headed over there and came across Aaron’s post on the junk food ban dilemma in New Brunswick. At one point Wudrick points out that,

“Subsidies, however well intentioned, often have negative side effects, since they ultimately blind people to the real costs of things, thereby eliminating or reducing aversions that people might have to taking any particular risk, or incurring a particular cost.

It also leads to an even more troublesome chain reaction, whereby the solution to problems caused by one government program lead to calls for another program to solve problems created by the one under it, and so on.”

Why do I care so much about this? Well, I don’t necessarily disagree. While I don’t think it can be applied universally, it does hold a lot of truth. And if we’re to apply it to the politics of Ontario, it definitely holds sway on several accounts for actions taken by the former Harris Tory government that now affects the current McGuinty Liberal government. One that particularly comes to mind is the issue of privatized hydro. For the last few years, Ontario has been facing brownouts and rising costs in energy. To make matters worse is that energy consumption has only been going up each year as well. It is easy to argue that a growing population is the likely cause, and I cannot say that it doesn’t play a part, but I doubt it’s the only player. If we are to take Wudrick’s statement as a truth then the growing energy demands are also being fueled by people being blind to the actual cost of energy in Ontario. One of the unfortunate left over affects of having an ideologue right-wing government is that they though it best to privatize our public energy system without looking at the facts first. The biggest fact they over-looked was that in nowhere in North America, at least at the time, had privatized energy worked in the favour of its customers and those who need it most. Whether these reasons were price gouging, over-selling to outside markets, under-generation, etc. privatized energy was failing people. The Harris government touted both the California and Pennsylvania models as standing examples, only to watch them fall in their own ways. California has been plagued by blackouts and brownouts and Pennsylvania is forking out taxpayer money to cover the subsidies. These are the sort of issues Ontario is currently facing. By the end of January of 2004, Ontario had spent $852 million trying to cover the subsidies. By now, that price has definitely climbed well past the $1 billion mark. However, Ontario doesn’t have much of a choice at this point because if we were to drop the subsidies energy prices would be too high. While we might get a reprieve on the energy grid, it would come at the cost of people not being able to heat their homes. The second poor affect is that the Liberals, in an attempt to correct both the brownout and subsidy issues, has been throwing money into private nuclear generators and developing half-assed solutions. The problem with the nuclear generators is that they were part of the problem that lead to Ontario’s public system being burdened with debt because they have shown to be only money pits. Our money goes into them but we never seem to get the costs recovered before they require more maintenance. And the maintenance costs on nuclear generators are quite substantial as the public records of Ontario Hydro show. McGuinty’s poor solutions essentially comes in the form of continuing to support privatized, (re)deregulated electrical companies and enacting measures that only spread the cost of subsidization in different ways from the Tories’ approach. Oh, and they are going to sell us smart-meters… I have my own ideas on how to fix the problem of energy in Ontario and I’ve alluded to it here. However, I would hope that the many Tories that visit Wudrick’s blog and anyone that reads this post will keep in mind what the true cost of subsidies, something the Right often argues against, are doing to Ontarians in relation to energy. And just as a final bit of goading, I hope that when Wudrick gets into politics seriously and into the government (he will be a formidable opponent one day. I’ve seen the guy in action on a low-scale before and it was scary then), he will realize that the Right is not always right, that the Left does sometimes have a point (I kept that modest for his sake) and that he will do the proper thing and drop ideology. Keep fighting the good fight!!

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Quotes from people smarter than me...

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich" ~ JFK

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms. " ~ Kristin Hunter

"When you're a mayor and you have a problem you blame the provincial government. If you are provincial government and you have a problem you blame the federal government. We don't blame the Queen any more, so once in a while we might blame the Americans." ~ Jean Chretien

"Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate." ~ John Ralston Saul

"It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal." ~ John Ralston Saul

"Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone's carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn't even know it. The trick is to die of old age before it finds you." ~ Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly, Episode 12)