Ontario Premier Doug Ford is defending his cancellation of 758 wind and solar energy contracts despite the move’s recently revealed $231-million price tag, saying he would rip out every wind turbine in the province if he could.
“If we had the chance to get rid of all the wind turbines, we would, because it’s totally unrealistic,” Mr. Ford told MPPs during Question Period, saying the high rates the previous Liberal government had agreed to pay for green energy were “making all the wind-turbine folks multi-, multimillionaires on the backs of the ratepayers.”
Speaking to reporters earlier on Thursday, Mr. Ford denied the $231-million in payouts was a waste of money, arguing the bill for breaking the energy deals is more than offset by $790-million in savings.
“I’m so proud of that. ... I’m proud that we actually saved the taxpayers $791-million [sic] when we cancelled those terrible, terrible wind turbines,” Mr. Ford said.
The $790-million number, which the government has used repeatedly since last year, is an estimate for the cost to hydro ratepayers over 20 years for the energy the projects were expected to produce. The savings amount to about $40-million a year, or 0.2 per cent of Ontario’s $20-billion electricity market.
Mr. Ford’s Progressive Conservatives pledged during last year’s election campaign that the move was part of their plan to lower hydro rates by 12 per cent. However, rates have still risen by 2 per cent this year.
When the decision to kill the contracts was announced in July, 2018, just a month after the provincial election, Ontario Energy Minister Greg Rickford did estimate that cancelling the preconstruction stage deals could cost taxpayers $200-million. However, last November, Attorney-General Doug Downey, who was then parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance, told the legislature the cancellations would cost nothing.
This week, the NDP unveiled research showing that $231-million the government had quietly put aside under “other transactions” in its spending estimates was in fact earmarked for the green-energy cancellations.
It was unclear how much of the $231-million line item was reserved for the costs of the more advanced White Pines project in Prince Edward County, east of Toronto, where demolition crews have in recent weeks been dismantling already-constructed wind turbines. Last year, the project’s German owner, wpd AG, indicated it would seek $100-million in damages to compensate for its losses.
The project, which like many wind farms faced vocal local opposition, is in the riding of Todd Smith, Mr. Ford’s Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.
NDP Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath said Mr. Ford’s comments about ripping out every wind turbine in the province were “ridiculous,” although she also called the previous Liberal government’s green-energy policies a “mess” of “sweetheart deals.”
“Every jurisdiction around the world is trying to figure out how to bring more renewables onto their electricity grids,” Ms. Horwath told reporters. “This government is taking us backwards.”
Mr. Rickford told reporters that Ontario has more than enough energy now, pointing out that almost all of it comes from zero-emissions nuclear and hydro sources. Asked if Ontario will have to burn more natural gas – boosting greenhouse emissions – when nuclear plants go offline for refurbishing in the coming years, Mr. Rickford said his government is developing an energy plan that would avoid that outcome.
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