Yakabuski Headshot, 2017

John’s Remarks in the Legislature

March 9, 2016February 22, 2016February 17, 2016December 3, 2016December 1, 2015 | November 24, 2015November 23, 2015November 17, 2015 | November 3, 2016November 2, 2016October 20, 2015September 30, 2015September 23, 2015May 27, 2015May 12, 2015 | May 11, 2016 | May 7, 2016 | May 5, 2016April 28, 2015April 23, 2015April 22, 2015April 21, 2015 | April 14, 2015 | April 13, 2015 | April 2, 2015 | March 30, 2015 | March 25, 2015 | March 11, 2015 | March 10, 2015 | March 4, 2015 | March 2, 2015 
February 23, 2015 | February 10, 2015 | 


Oral Questions - March 9, 2016

Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is to the Minister of Energy. Last month, the government announced that they were creating a $100-million fund so that homeowners using natural gas can more easily receive an energy audit and potential assistance on retrofitting their furnaces. The problem, according to the Canadian Propane Association and the Canadian Oil Heat Association, is that people who heat their homes with a propane or oil furnace are completely excluded.

For many people in northern and rural Ontario, natural gas is simply not available. Speaker, to the minister: Will they clarify this? Because I heard from the Deputy Premier today that they're going to make that program available to people who heat with propane or oil. Will the minister clarify today for the people of Ontario? Because if they're misunderstanding it, let us know. But if it is strictly for natural gas, then fix it and stop attacking people in rural Ontario.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: Union Gas and Enbridge are finding the ways and means to ensure that the other types of fuels will be included in that program, Mr. Speaker.

 


Oral Questions - February 22, 2016

Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is to the Premier. For years, it has been clear to us on this side of the House how damaging your government's reckless and dangerous energy policies truly are. The phone calls to my office and my colleagues' offices just haven't stopped. We hear from constituents every day who are desperate for help because they can't afford their hydro bills. Many people in Ontario don't know how they're going to pay this month's bill.

Speaker, why does this government stubbornly refuse to do anything to make energy more affordable in Ontario?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I hope that when those people call his office the member opposite is very clear with them that we do understand that there are challenges; we do understand that there was a cost associated with shutting down the coal-fired plants and there was a cost associated with making a degraded electricity system a reliable electricity system. That's why we have removed the debt retirement charge. We have put in place the Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit, which is targeted particularly at seniors to allow them to reduce their electricity costs. We've put in place the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program. We've put in place the Northern Ontario Energy Credit. We've made it very, very clear that there are mitigating programs to deal with the cost.

The fact is, we had to have a reliable, clean energy system. That was not left by the previous government. That's what we've built in Ontario.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.

Supplementary?

Mr. John Yakabuski: It's just a rolling shell game. Your former minister, George Smitherman, said that the Green Energy Act was going to cost 1% a year. That's where the costs have gone. The auditor says that it cost $9.2 billion more than it should have. This government's out-of-touch response is no more than just a mere Band-Aid for the gaping hole that is skyrocketing hydro bills. It's not just families and seniors in this province who are struggling to pay them; as hydro prices rise in Ontario, our businesses become less and less competitive.

The Liberals have driven job-creating businesses right out of Ontario and into the arms of neighbouring states and provinces-job creators like the Leamington greenhouse operator who chose Delta, Ohio, over Ontario to invest $61 million in his expanding business. If this government doesn't reverse course on damaging policies, more and more businesses will follow suit. How many more businesses have to leave Ontario before this government introduces a credible plan to make energy more affordable?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Energy.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: Mr. Speaker, the member refers to the industrial rates or the business rates. The member must know that the Ontario price is lower than probably 25 or 30 provinces and states in the US. That's the record.

I want to say that I appreciate very much-

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Simcoe-Grey is warned.

Carry on.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: Mr. Speaker, the member mentions: Going forward, what are we going to do? I appreciate that the Conservatives supported our refurbishment program, because, in the next 30 years, we're going to put into this province electricity which will cost about 7.5 to 8 cents per kilowatt hour going into the grid, and it'll be clean and emissions-free.

We did announce, a couple of days ago, $100 million that went into conservation that will help reduce rates. There's much more that I'll say in the supplementary.

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

Mr. John Yakabuski: Don't try to dodge the question. The question is about prices today.

Since you were elected, hydro costs have increased by more than $1,000 a year for the average family. This government has spent the last 12 years recklessly wasting billions of dollars on cancelled gas plants, expensive green energy experiments and smart meters that were anything but smart. If they hadn't done all that, hydro bills would be much more affordable. The Auditor General has said as much in her last report. Without the waste on cancelled gas plants and smart meters, this government wouldn't have to resort-

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The Minister of Finance is warned.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Excuse me; I'm not looking for any attention.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Without that waste, you wouldn't have to resort to the fire sale of Hydro One.

Will this government finally do something to address skyrocketing hydro bills for ratepayers? Will Thursday's budget, Mr. Finance Minister, include a credible plan to make energy affordable in Ontario?

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: I think there's a lot of exaggeration coming from the other side. If you look at the average daily price for electricity, if you take the price of electricity that's being paid in the province, the average by the residential user is $5.26 per day. That's less than most return transit fares in the province of Ontario. Take public transit back and forth-it costs less per day than what they're paying for electricity. Their one or two computers, one or two television sets, all their lights-all of that is $5.26 per day. It's less than a return trip on any public transit system in Ontario. It's less than a one-way GO trip. It is value that people are getting, and we're taking steps to bring it down.

 


Oral Questions - February 17, 2016

Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is to the Premier. More bad news on the energy file: Earlier this week it was revealed in the Globe and Mail that Windstream Energy is asking for damages of up to $568 million because your government abruptly put a moratorium on offshore wind developments. We told the government it was wrong to approve turbines in the Great Lakes. They went ahead and signed agreements anyway. Then they abruptly reneged on those deals because it was politically convenient, and now taxpayers are on the hook. Sadly, we've seen this sort of behaviour before. When this government cancelled the gas plants for political convenience, it cost the taxpayers over $1 billion.

Can the Premier explain why we're going down this road once again and why her government just can't get anything right?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I know the Minister of Energy is going to want to comment on this, but I can't resist saying to the member opposite that their position was that we put a moratorium on all wind turbines, that we put a moratorium on all renewable power. You actually can't have it both ways. There are contracts in place. We made a decision based on environmental concerns-

Mr. Jim Wilson: Take the ones out of the Collingwood airport, if you like.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Simcoe-Grey.

Finish, please.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: We made a decision on environmental concerns. Offshore wind in fresh water is in the early stages of development. We thought that it was responsible to get more information about the impacts of the offshore wind. The Minister of the Environment is researching to ensure that a decision is made in the best interests of Ontarians.

As I say, you can't have it both ways. You can't say, "Do a moratorium on everything," and then complain that there was a moratorium put on this particular aspect.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. John Yakabuski: Wow. Talk about wanting to have it both ways. First, you sign deals with companies to build turbines in the Great Lakes, and when it's politically bad for you, then you cancel them. That's why we're on the hook for this kind of money. It's clear that this government can't get anything right. When the truth finally comes out in the end, it always turns out to be wrong for the taxpayers in this province and they're the ones holding the bag.

Remember when cancelling the gas plants was going to cost $40 million? Remember when smart meters were going to save people money? Windstream is not the only company suing your government. T. Boone Pickens's case is still before NAFTA. Will ratepayers have to pay $700 million in that settlement as well? Then there's the Trillium Power Wind Corp. lawsuit that is ongoing because this government once again deleted emails and destroyed evidence.

We know the cancelled gas plants cost over $1 billion. Will the Premier admit that the taxpayers may be on the hook for another $1 billion in another one of her energy fiascos?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Stop the clock. Be seated, please.

Premier?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: The Minister of Energy.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: As the member knows, this matter is effectively before the courts and we can't make a particular decision. Canada, representing Ontario, has presented a detailed counter-position, which is a public document, and the process will take its usual route.

The member opposite is assuming that the case has been lost. When the case has been determined, I'd be happy to answer the premise of his question.

 


Oral Questions - December 3, 2015

Mr. John Yakabuski: To the Minister of Energy: The minister calls surplus power an opportunity. It has certainly been treated as an opportunity by our neighbours, who have picked it up from you at yard-sale prices.

Energy planning should not be done for short-term political gain. The government shouldn't be intervening in energy day after day to save seats in the Legislature, yet this Liberal government wasted $9.2 billion playing politics with their renewable energy contracts, $1 billion playing politics with the Lower Mattagami hydro project and the infamous $1.1 billion playing politics with the gas plant scandal.

If this government just listened to the experts, like any reasonable government would, ratepayers would have saved $11.3 billion.

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The Minister of Transportation is warned.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Does the minister think the auditor still doesn't know what she's talking about, or is $11.3 billion just another Liberal cup of coffee?

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: I'm pleased to talk about Lower Mattagami in the first instance. First of all, that project came in under budget and under time. As well, there were comparisons made to the cost of power to Lower Mattagami and other hydroelectric projects. The other hydroelectric projects referred to were built 15, 20, maybe 50 years ago. The capital cost has already been paid.

The other issue is that building a modern facility has tougher environmental requirements and has tougher requirements in terms of accommodating First Nations. There are now the legacy grievances of all the old hydro programs that are now under dispute and will eventually cost money.

It was a good project that created 1,800 jobs, 500 jobs for First Nations, and we make no apology-

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

Applause.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): And I definitely want to make sure I get to the supplementary.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Back to the minister: This isn't about renewable energy, it isn't about climate change; it's about what we could have saved. We could have had the exact amount of those renewables for $9.2 billion less if you had just listened and done your job.

The energy experts told the minister-

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Barrie is warned. If you haven't figured it out, I'm into warnings.

Carry on.

Mr. John Yakabuski: The energy experts told the minister what to do. He did the exact opposite, plain and simple. Now the minister wants to silence energy experts by passing Bill 135, which won't even let the experts bring forward their concerns with your directives that have already wasted $11.3 billion.

Will the minister listen to the experts and withdraw Bill 135, or does he just not care about the cost of hydro and the people of Ontario?

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: Mr. Speaker, first of all, in terms of renewable energy, at the time the previous cabinet, the previous Premier were doing good green things for the province. They looked at the Green Energy Act. They looked at the renewable promise. What they did was, they looked at other jurisdictions: 80 jurisdictions around the world had equivalent prices. They had standard offers. It was not a competitive process. This administration has eliminated the standard offer. It's a competitive process.

There have been no large solar or wind projects approved in this province since 2011. The ones that are out there now in the system are under the old process. It's more competitive, it's less costly, it's renewable energy and it's greening-

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

 


Oral Questions - December 1, 2015

Mr. Jack MacLaren: My question is to the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. We are all shocked by the bad news from Hornepayne, where the Haavaldsrud sawmill has announced they will be shutting down and laying off all 200 employees because they have not been able to secure a contract from the Ontario government for their cogeneration plants. These layoffs will have a devastating effect on the town of Hornepayne because they represent 50% of the total employment in the community and they come just before Christmas.

Forestry is the second-largest industry in Ontario. The industry suffered a massive downturn in 2008, resulting in a loss of 50% of the forestry jobs in Ontario. Recently, there has been an increase in demand for wood products, which represents hope for a turnaround in the industry. This bad news could be the straw that breaks the camel's back in Hornepayne. Mr. Speaker-

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

Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry?

Hon. Bill Mauro: I want to thank the member for the question. I know that the Minister of Energy will want to weigh in on this, and I will refer the supplementary to him.

The member is right that forestry suffered a significant downturn in 2005-06. In fact, the downturn suffered by this particular industry was a precursor to the greater recession that came in 2008.

I would remind this member and all members in the House that it was because of that downturn in 2005-06 that this government put in place an incredibly broad base of support programs for this particular industry. In fact, the broad base of supports and programs that we put in place totalled somewhere in the order of magnitude of $1.3 billion.

Speaker, I can tell you that even with this particular partner in the industry, we've provided specific supports of a very significant nature to this particular industrial player. We continue to work with them on this, we're aware of the issue and, as I've said earlier, I know that the Minister of Energy will add some more information on this particular situation in the supplementary.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary? The member from Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke.

Mr. John Yakabuski: It is the energy policies of this government that have precipitated the problems in Hornepayne, as they have in other communities all across northern Ontario and all across Ontario. Until you make the changes-and I ask the Minister of Natural Resources to stand with your cabinet colleague and fight for jobs in the north by getting your cabinet to reverse the disastrous energy policies that have sent prices through the roof. That is why this company hoped to mitigate some of the damage by selling some electricity back to the province. Now you've shut them off on that.

Will you stand today and say, "I'm in favour of keeping jobs in the north," and talk to your energy minister to reverse these disastrous policies?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please.

Minister of Natural Resources? Minister of Energy.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: I want to compliment the member from Algoma-Manitoulin, who has made representations in a professional way. We've had an ongoing dialogue and he has shown tremendous concern for this issue. We are working towards a solution, but the bottom line is that the power purchase contract which the operator has in hand right now is not economically viable. They're asking for a higher purchase price, which will put pressure on prices. Notwithstanding that, we're asking all of the participants who are engaged and impacted by this to try to come up with a solution. We are mildly optimistic that we can come up with a solution.

In terms of advocacy from the opposition, rather than yelling and screaming, as we've just heard, I want to compliment the member from Manitoulin for the effort that he has made in working with us towards a solution.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): There are people who have been warned in this House.

New question.

 


Member's Statement - November 24, 2015: Holomador

Mr. John Yakabuski: Today, I would like to begin with a quote from Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations: "A genocide begins with the killing of one person not because of what he has done, but because of who he is."

As we begin National Holodomor Awareness Week, I rise to remember the victims of the terrible famine in Ukraine, in which millions of people were starved to death in 1932 and 1933.

"Holodomor" means murder by starvation. This intentional and targeted genocide of the Ukrainian people, which took the lives of an estimated 2.5 million to 7.5 million people, many of whom were children, was perpetrated by the Communist dictator Joseph Stalin to punish Ukrainians for resisting Soviet rule. Soviet authorities confiscated all food grown by the Ukrainian farmers. Although the harvest was rich, the Ukrainian people were forbidden to touch it. Anyone, including children, caught taking even a stalk could be executed.

Special brigades searched homes and forcibly took all food from Ukrainian people, ensuring a mass famine would ensue. While millions were dying of starvation, the Soviets took the wheat the Ukrainians had produced and sold it abroad.

This genocidal famine was denied, ignored and covered up throughout the 20th century. Today, the Russian government continues to deny that the Holodomor was a genocide.

In the days ahead many events will be held across Canada to commemorate the Holodomor. I will be honoured to attend one such commemoration this Saturday in Mississauga, organized by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, together with PC Leader Patrick Brown.

By commemorating the victims of the Holodomor, we remind Ontarians that we share a responsibility to ensure that similar atrocities never happen again. This week, I join all Ontarians, particularly Ontarians and Canadians of Ukrainian origin, in solemnly marking the anniversary of this crime against humanity.

 


Oral Question - November 23, 2015

Mr. John Yakabuski: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Deputy Premier. Ontarians are now being bombarded with a new ad campaign promoting the Liberals' latest energy price shell game. When one shell game ends, a new one begins. The Ontario Electricity Support Program is just the most recent version of diversion and confusion when it comes to energy pricing. It is nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It pits one energy-poor family against another energy-poor family, and the Liberals draw the battle line.

The minister and the Deputy Premier must realize that every Ontario family needs real hydro relief-not another Liberal shell game-that can only come from a shift in policy direction from the wrong direction that this government is on.

Will the Deputy Premier stand in her place and announce a real policy change that will bring real relief to Ontario families?

Hon. Deborah Matthews: Speaker, I'm a bit surprised that the member opposite isn't actually standing up and saying, "I'm really happy to see the debt retirement charge go," because this will be off the hydro bills two years earlier than planned, saving families $70 a year.

In addition, we are focusing on the same people that you have brought up in question period, that your party has brought up in question period: those who really are burdened by high electricity bills. We know that the lower the income, the higher the burden of that bill.

As I said earlier, I really genuinely hope, politics aside, that everyone in this Legislature takes the time to make sure their constituents know about the new Ontario Electricity Support Program. It is a significant reduction in hydro bills. It is focused on people who have the lowest and moderate incomes. It is important that all members-

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

Supplementary?

Mr. John Yakabuski: Speaker, they love to talk about a cornucopia of programs, none of which would need to exist if they had a proper energy policy.

This is just another classic play from the Liberal governing handbook: Announce a redistribution program so that the minister and the Premier can have some nice photo ops, but when you examine the details, it is nothing more than another shell game.

Because of the sliding scale of the OESP, many families who need relief simply will not get it. But more important is the point that the $30 stipend from the OESP is nothing compared to the hundreds and hundreds of dollars this government has added to those same people's hydro bills over the years, and the hundreds more that you're going to add, each and every year, over the next decade.

Will the Premier just simply admit that the Ontario Electricity Support Program is more about photo ops and expensive ad campaigns than actually helping low-income electricity consumers?

Hon. Deborah Matthews: Well, maybe the member opposite can sniff at $500-a-year relief for Ontario families, but that's a meaningful difference for Ontarians.

I found it very intriguing, during the last federal election campaign, when the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Environment touted Canada's progress on reducing greenhouse gases by citing the changes we made in Ontario on shutting down those coal-fired plants.

We're proud of the decisions that we made to reduce greenhouse gases. We're proud of the decisions we made to improve the quality of our air. We're proud of the decisions we made to build a reliable energy system.

We all remember what it was like under their watch. It's not time to go back. We've made investments. We don't need more blackouts. We've got the kind of electricity system-

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

New question.

 


Member's Statement - November 17, 2015: Del O'Brian

Mr. John Yakabuski: Forty-seven years ago, Del O'Brien began a journey that has culminated in a book entitled Pem-Air: The Community Airline That Did It All. In the book he traces the history of the Pembroke and area airline over which he presided from 1968 until 2000.

The book tells a story of amazing success because of the ingenuity of one man and the belief and trust of so many others. Del recalls how he convinced the leaders of 12 area municipalities to combine their resources and build a 5,000-foot runway.

Pem-Air was soon airborne with flights to Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. It also carried radio isotopes for Atomic Energy of Canada to Boston and New York, and conducted air ambulance missions.

I was honoured to receive a personalized copy of his book on the weekend. I have known Del since 1968, when he was the Conservative candidate in the federal election. He rolled into Barry's Bay with a flatbed-a moving platform-as he spoke to the crowd in my hometown. I was one of the youth assembled with him on that platform. Since then, he has continued to be a friend and a trusted mentor.

He promised some years ago that when he retired from active law practice he would write a book, so that everyone would get their boarding pass on Pem-Air. While Del goes out of his way to express his appreciation and gratitude to so many, including the employees of Pem-Air, it is clear that without his efforts it's unlikely the airline would have ever gotten off the ground.

The official book launch is taking place today from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Travelodge in Pembroke, with additional signings in Petawawa, Deep River and Eganville.

I thank and congratulate Del for his efforts and I encourage everyone to get a copy of Pem-Air: The Community Airline That Did It All.

 


Oral Questions - November 3, 2015

Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is to the Minister of Energy. Minister, we've made it clear from the start that the intermittent nature of wind under the Liberals' Green Energy Act would ensure that it would never be a reliable source of electricity. We now have evidence that the level of production is actually lower than our worst predictions.

In 2009, Metrolinx, at considerable expense to the crown corporation, installed a 31-metre-tall wind turbine at its Lisgar station. However, this past August it was taken down because it failed miserably, producing less than 10% of the electricity that was expected.

Speaker, can the minister explain why, if Metrolinx has the common sense to cut its losses with unreliable wind power, the Liberal government continues to invest heavily in this expensive experiment?

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: The wind component of our energy supply mix is a very significant part of it. Number one: It's clean. In terms of the operating systems that are out there: I remember, while we were in estimates last week, that one of my colleagues checked the IESO app and was able to confirm on the spot that at that time in Ontario, there were 20 megawatts of wind being used in the system. That is reflective of the viability and the need for that type of energy mix.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. John Yakabuski: When wind hit that high point last week, it was a result of a deadly hurricane in Mexico and Texas. That's not a good time to be bragging about your wind.

The minister knows full well that even if the industrial wind turbine at Lisgar station had met its projections, that station would still require the stability of a grid in case the wind is not blowing on that particular day.

This example speaks to the larger problem that this minister would not accept: namely, that wind alone cannot be relied upon. It must be backed up by another form of reliable generation, essentially forcing Ontarians to pay twice.

Yet the government continues down this wrong path. Under the price schedule for-

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Come to order. Please finish.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Under the price schedule for 2016, the rate is increasing from 11.5 cents to 12.8 cents per kilowatt hour. This increased incentive means a flood of new wind on the grid, which will lead to an even more unstable and expensive energy supply.

Can the minister tell the House how many more examples like the Lisgar GO station will be needed before he stops signing these expensive, unreliable energy contracts?

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: I'm having trouble believing he is even having any credibility in his own premise, Mr. Speaker. He's finding one turbine owned by an entity that, for some reason, was dismantled. That's like seeing a Mercedes broken down on the side of the road and saying, "We should abolish all Mercedes." It's a ridiculous premise, and I can't answer any further than that.

 


Oral Questions - November 2, 2015

Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is for the Minister of Energy. Families all across Ontario will face impossible choices this winter due to the government's irresponsible hydro policies. Ratepayers are choosing between paying their hydro bills or lining up at the local food bank.
 

This is because as of yesterday, they are paying 17.5 cents a kilowatt hour for on-peak electricity. That's over four times more than it was when this government came to power. The primary reason for these devastating increases is the exorbitant contracts they have signed under their failed Green Energy Act. If the government continues to sign these contracts, they are going to increase hydro poverty even more.

Will the minister finally address the reality of skyrocketing hydro rates and stop signing these unaffordable contracts?

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: The member knows that our 2013 long-term energy plan projected rate increases over a 20-year period, and that the increases announced several weeks ago are below those projections.

In addition, the member knows we are continuing to mitigate rates through a new Ontario Electricity Support Program that will reduce rates for modest-income families by $360 per year. In addition, the debt retirement charge imposed by the Conservatives is being removed from bills starting in nine weeks, saving homeowners $70 per year. These are in addition to existing programs-the Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit, which will give seniors up to $1,131 per year, if they qualify. The Low-Income Energy Assistance Program continues, in addition to the new OESP. We're taking significant steps to mitigate rates.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. John Yakabuski: Again to the minister: The minister knows that this shell game of programs is just a drop in the bucket compared to the problems the Liberals created for energy ratepayers all across the province. The increases that came into effect yesterday mean that the average ratepayer will pay over $120 more per year, with more of that still coming down the pipe over the next half-decade. These increases are going to hurt rural and suburban Ontarians even more because those ratepayers are more likely to live in a detached dwelling.

The minister knows that energy poverty is deepening in this province because of his policies. How can the minister justify continuing to go down such a dangerous path when he knows of the misery it will create? Or does he simply not care about the people of Ontario?

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: We continue to create programs to mitigate rate increases. We continue to communicate that to the public so that they can get some relief from electricity prices.

But I wonder how many times the member from Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke has actually put in his householder that there is a credit of up to $1,131 for seniors, that we have an OESP which will take $360 per year off modest-income families. I'd like to know why he doesn't sell programs that make sense for consumers in this province instead of standing up here, grandstanding and exaggerating the increase by 2.5 times what it actually is.

 


Oral Questions - October 20, 2015

Mr. John Yakabuski: I would, too, at this time, on behalf our leader, Patrick Brown, and the PC caucus, like to offer our congratulations to Prime Minister-elect Justin Trudeau on his victory last night. We wish him the very best in governing Canada.

I would also like to congratulate Thomas Mulcair and Prime Minister Harper for their campaigns, and thank Stephen Harper for his 10-year service to Canada.

To the Minister of Energy: For years now, we in the opposition have warned about the dire consequences due to the government's reckless handling of the energy system. Families and businesses cannot afford Liberal energy policies, yet the government continues to go down the same path. Last week, those fears were confirmed again when a substantive increase in hydro rates was released under the cover of Thanksgiving constituency week.

Ontarians are tired of the Liberal government not being open and transparent with them about their hydro bills.

Speaker, will the minister admit that the reason the government always releases these numbers when the House is not sitting is that they recognize how damaging these increases are to families and to the province's economy, and it underlines their disastrous management of our electricity system?

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: Mr. Speaker, the member knows that our 2013 long-term energy plan projected rate increases over a 20-year period and that the increases announced last week are below those projections.

In addition, the member knows we are continuing to mitigate rates with the new Ontario Electricity Support Program, which will reduce rates for modest-income families by $360 per year.

In addition, the debt retirement charge imposed by the Conservatives is being removed from the bill starting in about nine weeks, saving homeowners another $70 per year.

These are in addition to existing programs, which give seniors a property tax credit of up to $1,131 per year, and northern Ontarians have a tax credit of up to $221 per year.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. John Yakabuski: It's another shell game proposed by the Liberals, but the people in Ontario are not being fooled.

As announced last week, on November 1 rates are up again. At peak, they will be 17.5 cents a kilowatt hour. That is more than four times what they were when the Liberals came to power.

Last winter, our offices were inundated with messages from residential and commercial ratepayers who had no idea how they would pay their hydro bills.

Now, in less than two weeks, power is going up a staggering 8.7% for on-peak rates, rates that were already too high.

Speaker, how can the minister justify these extreme price increases to seniors trying to stay warm in their homes and on a fixed budget, and to Ontario families who have no idea how they're going to pay their bills this winter?

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: Mr. Speaker, neighbouring jurisdictions, starting in the United States, typically experience higher residential rates than Ontario. Comparing our peak or highest price to US states, we see higher rates in New Jersey, at 17 cents per kilowatt hour; Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Rhode Island at 19 cents. In Connecticut and New York, prices are roughly 22 cents per kilowatt hour, and states like California-18 cents per kilowatt hour-also experience prices higher than those in Ontario.

While Ontario has already made the necessary infrastructure upgrades to transition off dirty coal, many of these jurisdictions still rely on coal for a significant part of their supply mix. This means prices could likely increase as they switch to cleaner forms of generation, and many jurisdictions, like Michigan, Nova Scotia, Maryland and Pennsylvania-

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

Mr. John Yakabuski: Yes, fun with numbers, like that reference to a cup of coffee, but the people know better. Once these new rates come into effect, it will further entrench Ontario as one of the most expensive energy jurisdictions in all of North America. I can remember when the minister called these incentives nothing more than a cup of coffee; however, with this increase, the average ratepayer will pay over $120 more per year, and more if you're in a detached dwelling.

Speaker, the minister knows that energy poverty is a fact in this province, and it is hurting Ontario families. It is deepening due to the arrogance of their mismanagement of the file. Ontarians cannot afford the projected hydro increases due to your reckless energy plans.

Speaker, can the minister stand up now, stop serving coffee and acknowledge the harm he is doing to Ontario families, or does he just not care?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.

Minister?

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: Mr. Speaker, the member chooses to ignore the fact that we're starting a new Ontario Electricity Support Program that will reduce rates for modest-income families by $360 per year. I've already indicated as well that the debt retirement charge is coming off the bills.

But most importantly, particularly for rural areas, we're doing a very significant initiative to expand natural gas to rural communities, which will enable them to use less or get off electricity, which is causing rates to go up because they're bound by that. They don't have the benefit of natural gas.

We have a program coming on stream for a loan program. We also have a grant program. The rural wardens love this program. They know it's going to help their communities.

 


Oral Questions - September 30, 2015

Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is to the Minister of Energy.

Minister, despite massive public opposition to your plan to sell Hydro One, you seem unwilling to change your direction and provide Ontarians with the information they have every right to. Your government claims to be open and transparent, but the way you've conducted this sell-off of the crown jewel of our electricity system has shown that your words are empty and hollow.

Minister, you're nearing Damascus. You still have a chance to redeem yourself. Will you commit to the people of Ontario, the actual owners of Hydro One, to hold off on this fire sale so that they can thoroughly examine this deal and render their judgment at the ballot box?

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: First of all, they did render their judgment at the ballot box. We won the last election on the basis of repurposing our assets.

In terms of information, the opposition, the public, in fact, has been provided a 320-page prospectus that sets out more detail than anybody has ever seen with respect to Hydro One.

We actually are going through estimates, where every dollar that's been spent in the ministry is under review and analysis by the opposition. Much of that has to do with the preparation and lead-up to the Hydro One project. Ed Clark, chair of the assets committee, has made himself available for extensive media interviews and answered all the questions five or six times in the minutest detail.

We have been sharing information. People knew that it was part of our agenda, and we're implementing a mandate that we have.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. John Yakabuski: Speaker, for the minister to imply that they received a mandate to sell Hydro One in the 2014 election shows just how hopelessly arrogant this government has become.

Minister, the only reason you're going to sell Hydro One on the auction block is because the Premier has maxed out the provincial credit cards and she can't pay for infrastructure the way that every other Premier before her paid for infrastructure. That's why the people of Ontario universally-

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Stop the clock.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Order.

Finish, please.

Mr. John Yakabuski: That's why the people of Ontario universally oppose their plan to sell Hydro One. It does not pass the smell test. If it did, they would have campaigned vigorously on it during the 2014 general election, but they didn't because they knew it would be a bad deal for Ontario ratepayers.

Minister, if you're not willing to hold off on this fire sale, will you at least heed the call of our leader and the opposition and release all the reports and financial analysis to justify your dismantling of this vital public asset?

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: The member mentions the level of spending for infrastructure. I indicated in an earlier answer that that government averaged $2 billion per year investment in infrastructure over the last three or four years of their term. We have been investing $11.5 billion.

When it comes to the electricity sector, they left us with a deficit of electricity. They left us with a deficit, a declining amount of generation and transmission, and we had to invest $34 billion to fix the mess they left us with.

 


Member's Statement September 23, 2015: Tragedy in Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke

Mr. John Yakabuski: The peace and tranquility of the Madawaska Valley was shattered yesterday with the news of a fatal shooting. I was attending the International Plowing Match in Finch when I was first informed.

As the news developed, it got much worse. In the end, it turned out that three innocent women were the victims of a single male suspect who was later apprehended by police.

By now, everyone has heard or seen the news reports of how these tragic events unfolded. It is clear that the gunman knew his victims, knew their whereabouts, and methodically went about executing his plan to murder them.

I knew one of the victims, Anastasia Kuzyk. She was a hard-working and well-respected real estate agent working in the area. On a number of occasions, I would have spoken to her while she was working on a transaction with my wife, Vicky, who is also an agent.

The Madawaska Valley was in a state of shock, as this is not the kind of thing we expect to hear about. But it illustrates to all of us that we're not immune to the evil and criminal acts that rural people tend to associate with larger communities.

We are left with many questions as to why something like this could happen. How could someone do this? Some questions may never be answered, but as the investigation unfolds, some certainly will be.

I want to congratulate and thank the police for acting quickly, marshalling all the necessary resources and apprehending the suspect as quickly as they did. This allowed a lot of worried people to sleep better last night.

I also want to thank the staff and teachers in those schools that were in lockdown yesterday. They took care of our children during the emergency, and we're all grateful for that.

Finally, I want to thank the people of the valley for their co-operation and composure during this crisis.

Most importantly, on behalf of my constituents, I want to extend my heartfelt sympathies to the families and friends of the victims: Anastasia Kuzyk, Nathalie Warmerdam and Carol Culleton. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

 

 


Oral Questions - May 27, 2015

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): New question. The member for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke.

Mr. John Yakabuski: I'm glad I'm still here.

To the Premier: The Ombudsman's report said that they learned from internal emails that Hydro One deliberately sanitized the script it used at that meeting with the Ombudsman. A Hydro One official wrote in an email, "If we simply state that we're essentially in line with expected customer reaction ... that's a healthy story." That official was deliberately misleading an independent officer of the Legislature. They tried to hide the truth.

Premier, has the Hydro One official been fired for misleading and obstructing the Ombudsman?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Energy.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: Mr. Speaker, we know that the Ombudsman did a very comprehensive and thorough study of this particular issue. We have accepted his report. We're also proceeding on the basis of having asked the current chair of Hydro One, David Denison, to follow up on the Ombudsman's report, to report back publicly within 40 days, looking into all of the recommendations as well as any other relevant matters around the billing issue. We will have a thorough report from the current chair. We will assess the situation at that particular time.

There were three senior officers of the corporation who were associated with the IT system who are no longer with the corporation. They left the corporation around the time that the extent of the billing errors came to light.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Again to the Premier: The Ombudsman's office called Hydro One to ask about a billing issue. When that conversation ended, the employee emailed their manager. The manager replied, "If you get the feeling that they're going to investigate more aggressively or escalate, let us know," and "Good warning in case they come knocking. Please keep holding the line with messages like you conveyed." It is obvious that the manager knew something wasn't right and instructed their staff to at the very least bend the truth or perhaps outright lie.

Premier, has that manager been fired for instructing their staff to mislead the Ombudsman?

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: I'll just repeat what I said-

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Finish, please.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: I'll just repeat what I said in the main question.

It's very clear that Hydro One has been working to address the outstanding issues, but we're going further than that. We want to make it perfectly clear that we're going to be receiving a report from the new chair of Hydro One. The newly appointed chair of Hydro One, David Denison, is overseeing a process to select a CEO moving forward, Mr. Speaker. The chair and the Minister of Energy are in the process of restructuring the board of directors. It's going to be a better company. It's going to be a more efficient company. It will be a very accountable company.

 


Oral Questions - May 12, 2015

Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is to the Minister of Energy. Minster, on countless occasions we have asked you questions about the consequences of your reckless hydro policies. We have told you about constituents who are in the most desperate situations because the cost of energy is rising much faster than their ability to pay. Unfortunately for them, you and your Premier seem unwilling to listen or do not care.

As of the first of this month, they're paying 16.1 cents a kilowatt hour, plus all the extras you slap on for on-peak electricity. When your government took office, they were paying less than a third of that.

Minister, we asked you to include this in your budget; you refused. We'll ask you again: Will you enact a consumers-first energy plan that protects Ontario's hydro users from future skyrocketing increases?

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: I'm pleased to answer, and I was particularly pleased to hear yesterday from the new leader of the PT Party, Patrick Brown. He appears to be coming from the Brown field of public policy, because he stood here, five feet away from me-

Mr. John Yakabuski: Point of order, Speaker: There is no Tea Party.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Stop the clock.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Arrogance.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke will come to order. I am going to ask all members to use temperate language with the avoidance of inflaming the House, which is what is not supposed to be done. And that goes for all sides.

Minister, I would like to tell you specifically that it was not helpful.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: I withdraw, Mr. Speaker.

The new Leader of the Opposition stood in this House and said that the salvation for electricity rates in Ontario is broad expansion of hydro power in the province of Ontario, not knowing that the capacity for expanding hydro is very, very limited in the province. To the extent it could be expanded, we put $2.6 billion into expanding the Lower Mattagami facility, generating jobs and more hydro power-

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

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Nepean-Carleton will come to order.

Supplementary?

Mr. John Yakabuski: The minister would rather be smarmy than just answer the questions.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Stop the clock. I believe I just explained why I thought that temperate language would be helpful in this place.

Please finish.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Minister, we will continue to ask these questions over and over again until you start giving satisfactory responses. Your MPPs hear the same sad stories that we do. You are not unaware of this problem.

Your "always blame the Tories" strategy on the energy file is simply not working. Ratepayers of this province place responsibility for this disaster squarely on your shoulders.

We know that there's no way you can undo the damage you've already inflicted. For you, the first step is to stop inflicting more. Minister, will you reverse the skyrocketing hydro trends and stop inflicting additional pain on our economy and its citizens?

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: In addition to the ridiculous possibility of massive expansion of hydro, which is not possible in Ontario, that shows the lack of knowledge-

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Oh, for the love of God, Bob.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Nepean-Carleton-second time.

Carry on.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: -a massive lack of knowledge of the electricity system in Ontario, Mr. Speaker.

If you look at the PC Party, their policy is to massively expand new nuclear in Ontario, which would cost $50 billion-$15 billion onto the electricity rates, which this province cannot afford.

We have taken very significant steps to push the costs down, and in the next supplementary, I will address hydro rates in the province of Ontario from this government.

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

Mr. John Yakabuski: That $50 billion is a great number, because that's what your global adjustment has already cost Ontarians.

Minister, there's going to be a significant hydro protest tomorrow here at Queen's Park. People from all across the province are coming here to send you and your government a clear message that they cannot afford electricity because of your disastrous policies, like the Green Energy Act. These citizens are here on their own time and their own dime, to tell you in no uncertain terms about the pain that you've inflicted on them. They're hoping that logic and compassion will take you off your current road to disaster.

Minister, can we have your assurances that you will meet with them tomorrow and, for once in your life, actually listen to what's being said?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.

Minister.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: Mr. Speaker, according to the National Energy Board, we are projecting 2.2% annual increases over the next 18 years-that's from the National Energy Board-compared to Alberta at 3.2%, BC at 2.8%, New Brunswick at 2.4% and Nova Scotia at 2.8%.

Ontario industrial rates also compare very favourably with other jurisdictions. Industrial rates in northern Ontario are among the lowest in Canada-

Mr. John Yakabuski: My God, with that good news, people must just be laughing through Ontario.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke is warned.

Carry on.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: Debates are two-way, Mr. Speaker, and apparently the critic for the opposition wants a one-way debate. He doesn't want to listen; he just wants to talk. If he'd listen, he'd know that in Canada, we have the lowest rates. In northern Ontario, they're lower than in 45 American states. Industrial rates in-
Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Prince Edward-Hastings, come to order.

Finish, please.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: Mr. Speaker, I'll finish with this: Industrial rates in southern Ontario are lower than in Michigan, Wisconsin and New Jersey and in line with states like Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Minnesota.

We have extensive programs to mitigate rates in the industrial and business sectors.

 


Oral Questions - May 11, 2015

 

 

Mr. John Yakabuski: To the Premier: Our guest this morning, Premier Couillard, has taken real steps to balance Quebec's budget. Premier Wynne's budget balancing plan involves a fire sale of assets that belong to the people of Ontario. Furthermore, Premier Couillard has shown leadership with his province's energy policy. He understands that low hydro rates are fundamental to create a climate where business can prosper and families can thrive. You, on the other hand, are intent on bankrupting Ontario's businesses with your government's energy policies, forcing them to flee this province and set up shop elsewhere just to keep operating.

Premier, will you take a lesson from Quebec about the direct relationship between low hydro rates and keeping businesses here in Ontario?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.

All right, so we'll apply it: Next one when I'm standing and I get quiet and someone wants to interject, they're named.

Premier?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I neglected, at the beginning of my first answer, to congratulate Patrick Brown on his leadership win this weekend. Having been through leadership myself, I know that he must be very excited and anxious as he goes into these coming weeks. So I just wanted to congratulate him.

The member opposite reminded me-because of course the new leader touched on this issue in his remarks. When we talk about the relationship with Quebec, and we compare and contrast our realities, I know that the member opposite understands that we have different geography than Quebec. I know he understands that. I know he understands that the tilt of the land is different in Ontario than it is in Quebec. But we certainly will work with Quebec to do everything we can to make sure that we maximize our partnership.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. John Yakabuski: Ontario's Xstrata Copper moved its operations to Quebec in large part because of the competitive hydro rates in that province. This past month, Goodyear chose to open a plant in Mexico instead of Ontario because of our ridiculously expensive hydro rates. Ontario needs businesses to come here because of our hydro rates, not to run away because they can't afford them. Your government's failed energy policies have already cost this province over 300,000 well-paying manufacturing jobs.

Premier, how much longer will you ignore the exodus out of Ontario of solid job creators like Goodyear before you take real action to lower Ontario's hydro rates?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Energy.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: Mr. Speaker, the member will know that in northern Ontario we have the NIER Program, which is an industrial support program that takes 25% off the price of manufacturing facilities in northern Ontario. In northern Ontario, we have among the lowest rates-industrial rates-in North America.

The new leader of the Progressive Conservatives talked about basing our energy policy forward in building new hydroelectricity capacity in the province of Ontario. We've used that all up; there's no more capacity. We spent $2.6 billion expanding the -

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Nepean-Carleton, second time. The member from Lanark.

Carry on.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: We spent $2.6 billion expanding the Lower Mattagami hydro dam. We spent $1.2 billion building a new tunnel to expand Niagara's capacity-

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

Mr. John Yakabuski: Back to the Premier: Quebec has embraced the fact that a prosperous province needs to have a strong private sector economy, an economy that allows governments to invest in its people rather than sell off public assets to buy labour peace.

Quebec wisely chose to build its energy system around its strength: a natural abundance of hydroelectric power. You, on the other hand, insist on subsidizing expensive wind and solar projects that are costing Ontario families and businesses thousands of dollars each year.

Today the Premier touted Quebec's accomplishments.

Premier, will you follow Quebec's lead and adopt a realistic, affordable, provincial energy plan?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.

Minister of Energy?

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: Last month, Ontario's manufacturing sector gained 1,200 new jobs. We saw the manufacturing sector gain over 800 jobs the month before. Since 2003, our government has announced over $1.6 billion in support of Ontario manufacturers, leveraging over $15 billion from the private sector to spur innovation. We are also among the lowest in North America in terms of industrial pricing because of our programs that we have, such as the ICI and IEI, which lower significantly the prices that our businesses have to pay.

 


Oral Questions - May 7, 2015

Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is to the President of the Treasury Board. For the past month, we've been talking about your government's sale of Hydro One, and you have justified it time and time again by saying it is needed for infrastructure. But we now know you've decided to give away shares of Hydro One to employees of OPG and Hydro One as part of their new contracts, and I've sent you copies of those contracts, the tentative agreements.

You claim the deal is net zero-

Hon. Charles Sousa: It is.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Minister of Finance.

Mr. John Yakabuski: -but we know that in that deal, you're giving away stocks to those employees. You are providing wage increases over each of the next three years. You are increasing travel allowances. You're adding in possible lump-sum payments.

Minister, what are Ontarians getting to make this a net-zero deal?

Hon. Deborah Matthews: Let me just finish my last sentence. Billions of dollars are being wasted in economic prosperity, lost-

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): No, no, no. Thank you.

Hon. Deborah Matthews: Trucks are stuck on the highways, costing businesses billions of dollars. We are paying for that additional cost; make no mistake about it.

When it comes to the power workers' agreement-and I thank you for sending over not copies of the contract but-

Mr. John Yakabuski: Tentative.

Hon. Deborah Matthews: No, actually, what you've sent over is what the Power Workers' Union is using to communicate with their workers, but whatever. This is a deal that is under ratification. We are going through the ratification process. We will continue to respect the ratification. It is actually a net-zero deal. Over time, it addresses the Leech report recommendations. This is a good deal-

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

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Very close.

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): No, no. I will name.

Supplementary?

Mr. John Yakabuski: Wage increases each of the years and shares with nothing in return sure sounds like zero to me.

Again to the Treasury Board president: You're trying to buy labour peace with the sale of Hydro One. Minister, you're giving away shares and massive increases funded by the sale. I'm still looking for what is net zero about these deals, as are the people of Ontario. You're setting a terrible precedent by having a fire sale to fund labour peace.

We know that taxpayers were paying the power workers' pensions at a ratio of about 5 to 1. In this agreement, did you at least get those pensions contributions down to 1 to 1, as is the standard across the public service? Will that make this deal net zero? Is that how it's going to be net zero? Because we're still trying to figure out how you get zero. We've got all these numbers, but they all add up to zero. You are amazing with your math over there on that Liberal side of the House.

Hon. Deborah Matthews: We actually respect the ratification process. We will not be talking about details of the deal because the workers are now in the process-

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Carry on.

Hon. Deborah Matthews: The workers are in the process of ratification, and we will not jeopardize that by talking about the deal in any kind of detail.

What I can tell you is that it is net zero. I can tell you that over time it addresses the recommendations of the Leech report but, most importantly, what I'm really delighted about is that workers are being given the opportunity-we'll see how they decide-and we are excited that the workers will actually have a stake in the success of a company.


Oral Questions - May 5, 2016

Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is for the Premier. Premier, we've been talking a lot lately about this upcoming sale of shares in Hydro One, but there's been very little talk of your sale of Hydro One Brampton.

Ed Clark's report states that a deal has already been reached with three private companies, yet your government never publicly put Hydro One Brampton up for sale. You never even asked for a single competitive bid. Ontarians have no guarantee that they're getting maximum value for the sale of Hydro One Brampton.

Premier, if you're going to sell public assets, can you at least provide some evidence that it's being done properly?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I know the Minister of Energy is going to want to comment in the supplementaries, but I just want to be clear that I believe it is very important that we work with local distribution companies in this province. I think consolidation is something that we can agree is an important thing.

The proposed merger of Enersource, Horizon, Hydro One Brampton and PowerStream will create the second-largest distributor. This merged entity would be able to deliver efficiencies and economies of scale that would translate into savings for their respective ratepayers. That is critical.

I would just also comment on the agreement that consolidation is a good thing: The PC's white paper encouraged consolidation for "stronger utilities and lower operations, maintenance, and administrative costs." They actually are onside with this.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. John Yakabuski: I think you said you believed that the gas plant cancellation was going to be $40 million.

Premier, when talking about alcohol sales, Ed Clark wrote, "We expressed the view that some degree of competition is always healthy... ," yet when talking about the sale of hydro assets, he wrote, "The council believes that the province should not conduct an open auction or procurement process for Hydro One Brampton." It's a classic Liberal move: Say one thing, do another.

Premier, if Ed Clark states that competition is always healthy, why won't you allow a single competitive bid process on the sale of Hydro One Brampton?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Energy.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: After considerable consultation and examining the market, the council-

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Order. Like yesterday, I'll jump quickly.

Carry on.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: The council's report emphasized, "This option results in a strong consolidator in the GTHA at a value that was as high as could otherwise be achieved"-and they did explore the market, Mr. Speaker. This proposed merger is a unique circumstance that presented itself, and the council was of the belief that its value could not be replicated through any alternative process.

In considering what form of strategic sale or merger to pursue, the council was influenced strongly by the importance of creating a strong, stand-alone industry consolidator.

Again, their Paths to Prosperity stated-

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

Mr. John Yakabuski: Sure, we'll just trust you on this one like we've done in the past.

Premier, you're asking Ontarians to trust you on this deal. With your track record, that's just not good enough. That's why I wrote to the Auditor General to ask her to investigate the sale of Hydro One Brampton before you remove her ability to do so in the coming weeks, with the passing of the budget bill.

We know that you like to say you're open and transparent, so now's your chance to back that up. If you truly have nothing to hide, you will support my request to let the Auditor General, with her vast experience in the energy sector, investigate the sale of Hydro One Brampton.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Member from Dufferin-Caledon, come to order. Yes, I said that I was going to be sharp-especially when I'm standing.

Carry on.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: The transaction represents eight municipalities, some of whom are already consolidated in one form or another. The circumstances were extremely unique. Our government intends to proceed with the merger of Enersource, Horizon, Hydro One Brampton and PowerStream to ensure value for the province and to encourage local distribution company consolidation for the benefit of ratepayers.

They issued a white paper. They talked about trying to create circumstances for consolidation. They issued a white paper that asked to broaden the ownership of Hydro One and OPG. Now they're turning against themselves only to be critical, and have no positive options to offer in this House.

 


Oral Questions - April 28, 2015

Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is for the Minister of Energy. Minister, we've warned you of the suffering that you've inflicted through your reckless hydro policies. Our offices have been inundated with messages from residential and commercial ratepayers, who have no idea how they'll deal with the ever-increasing energy burden you've laid upon them.

To make matters worse, on Friday, rates are going up a staggering 15%. That's 15% on electricity that was already way too high.

Skyrocketing rates are an enormous drain on manufacturing and small businesses. They kill jobs and send them to other jurisdictions. Yet you're still bent on signing expensive energy contracts for intermittent, unreliable power.

Minister, will you stop doubling down on your failed energy experiments and enact a consumers-first energy plan that protects Ontario hydro ratepayers?

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: I appreciate the questions that I get from my Conservative critic. He's often bombastic, and he often has a very different interpretation of reality.

The announcement that was made by the Ontario Energy Boards was not 15%. What he really fails to appreciate is that when he says that we have the highest electricity prices-

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I believe the member would really like to be able to ask his supplementary.

Finish, please.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: When he says we have the highest electricity prices in Canada, he's wrong. When he says we have the highest prices in North America, he's wrong. We have invested $34 billion in this system to make it reliable, after they ran it into the dump-

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

Supplementary.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Surprisingly, Mr. Speaker, we're going to disagree.

Minister, once the new rates come into effect this Friday, Ontario will have the highest electricity rates in Canada. That's right. We're now surpassing that industrial powerhouse, Prince Edward Island, in having the most uncompetitive rates in the country.

Your arrogant mismanagement of the hydro system has real-world consequences. Just ask the people of Napanee, who are losing out to Mexico with Goodyear's new multi-million-dollar planned expansion.

Minister, Ontarians cannot afford your hydro increases, due to your expensive energy experiments. Will you stand up now and begin to reverse the damage you're inflicting on Ontarians?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.

Minister.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: He alluded to the Green Energy Act and the renewables that we're dealing with in terms of experiments. Well, I have a quote here, and it's from the critic from Nipissing-

Mr. Victor Fedeli: He was alluding to the 15% increase.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Nipissing.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: "Taking advantage of locally available green power resources is a good fit with the long-range development strategy we have for the community. I am particularly pleased with the relationship we have struck with West Wind Development Inc. for the first half of the project. I am confident that the company's reputation as a responsible wind power developer"-

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Excuse me-

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The deputy House leader is warned, and the member from Nipissing will come to order-second time.

Carry on.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: -the member from Nipissing says, will "put North Bay `on the map' as a showcase for the sensitive and responsible development of this great renewable energy source."

He is a great endorser-

Mr. Victor Fedeli: Too bad you didn't warn us about the cost.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. You're finished.

The member from Nipissing is warned.

New question.

Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is for the Premier. Premier, we've been talking a lot lately about this upcoming sale of shares in Hydro One, but there's been very little talk of your sale of Hydro One Brampton.

Ed Clark's report states that a deal has already been reached with three private companies, yet your government never publicly put Hydro One Brampton up for sale. You never even asked for a single competitive bid. Ontarians have no guarantee that they're getting maximum value for the sale of Hydro One Brampton.

Premier, if you're going to sell public assets, can you at least provide some evidence that it's being done properly?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I know the Minister of Energy is going to want to comment in the supplementaries, but I just want to be clear that I believe it is very important that we work with local distribution companies in this province. I think consolidation is something that we can agree is an important thing.

The proposed merger of Enersource, Horizon, Hydro One Brampton and PowerStream will create the second-largest distributor. This merged entity would be able to deliver efficiencies and economies of scale that would translate into savings for their respective ratepayers. That is critical.

I would just also comment on the agreement that consolidation is a good thing: The PC's white paper encouraged consolidation for "stronger utilities and lower operations, maintenance, and administrative costs." They actually are onside with this.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. John Yakabuski: I think you said you believed that the gas plant cancellation was going to be $40 million.

Premier, when talking about alcohol sales, Ed Clark wrote, "We expressed the view that some degree of competition is always healthy... ," yet when talking about the sale of hydro assets, he wrote, "The council believes that the province should not conduct an open auction or procurement process for Hydro One Brampton." It's a classic Liberal move: Say one thing, do another.

Premier, if Ed Clark states that competition is always healthy, why won't you allow a single competitive bid process on the sale of Hydro One Brampton?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Energy.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: After considerable consultation and examining the market, the council-

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Order. Like yesterday, I'll jump quickly.

Carry on.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: The council's report emphasized, "This option results in a strong consolidator in the GTHA at a value that was as high as could otherwise be achieved"-and they did explore the market, Mr. Speaker. This proposed merger is a unique circumstance that presented itself, and the council was of the belief that its value could not be replicated through any alternative process.

In considering what form of strategic sale or merger to pursue, the council was influenced strongly by the importance of creating a strong, stand-alone industry consolidator.

Again, their Paths to Prosperity stated-

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

Mr. John Yakabuski: Sure, we'll just trust you on this one like we've done in the past.

Premier, you're asking Ontarians to trust you on this deal. With your track record, that's just not good enough. That's why I wrote to the Auditor General to ask her to investigate the sale of Hydro One Brampton before you remove her ability to do so in the coming weeks, with the passing of the budget bill.

We know that you like to say you're open and transparent, so now's your chance to back that up. If you truly have nothing to hide, you will support my request to let the Auditor General, with her vast experience in the energy sector, investigate the sale of Hydro One Brampton.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Member from Dufferin-Caledon, come to order. Yes, I said that I was going to be sharp-especially when I'm standing.

Carry on.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: The transaction represents eight municipalities, some of whom are already consolidated in one form or another. The circumstances were extremely unique. Our government intends to proceed with the merger of Enersource, Horizon, Hydro One Brampton and PowerStream to ensure value for the province and to encourage local distribution company consolidation for the benefit of ratepayers.

They issued a white paper. They talked about trying to create circumstances for consolidation. They issued a white paper that asked to broaden the ownership of Hydro One and OPG. Now they're turning against themselves only to be critical, and have no positive options to offer in this House.

 


Oral Questions - April 23, 2015 

Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is to the Premier. Premier, during this pre-budget period we have tried to impress upon you how reckless and dangerous your fiscal and electricity policies really are. Sadly, it seems we're not getting through.

I know you have enough staff so that every call and every email to your office is screened by a legion of loyal Liberals. Here in the opposition, we often deal with those on a personal basis. We hear from constituents in desperate circumstances because their hydro bills are skyrocketing while their incomes are stagnant and the tax burden grows heavier. But this does not seem to matter to you. Ratepayers in this province currently don't know how they're going to pay this month's hydro bill. Where will they be in five years when their bills have doubled under your failed disastrous energy policies?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I thank the member opposite for the question. I would say to him that he knows full well that we have worked very hard to reinvest in and rebuild the energy system in this province. The electricity system had been neglected when we came into office. It was degraded across the province, it was not reliable and we had to make investments. Just as an example, 10,000 kilometres of line had to be rebuilt.

The fact is that that costs money. The legacy of the party opposite was that they had left that degraded electricity system. We've made those investments, and we recognize that we have to have some supports in place for people who need some help. So I hope that, as the member opposite responds to those emails, he lets people know about the programs that are in place. I'll speak to those in the supplementary.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. John Yakabuski: Yet she conveniently ignores the $50 billion of global adjustment that people are paying in this province.

You keep ignoring the $27-billion debt of the Ontario Electricity Financial Corp. like it doesn't actually exist. Your ignorance-is-bliss mentality won't make the problem go away.

Energy rates have continuously increased since your government came to power in 2003. This devastating trend of escalating rates will only worsen through your sale of Hydro One. If you sell 60% of Hydro One, you will restrict the OEFC's ability to pay off the electricity debt. This will result in higher rates for electricity consumers-even higher than your 42% planned increase under your long-term energy plan.

Premier, I ask you this question: Are you going to follow the law in the Electricity Act and use the proceeds from the Hydro One sale to pay down the electricity debt?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Mr. Speaker, the supplementary has gotten to where this member really wants to go, which is that he doesn't believe we should be taking the tough decisions required to invest in infrastructure in this province. That's essentially what he is saying.

Let me go back to the issue of people who need some support. He knows full well that no matter what we do in terms of Hydro One, the Ontario Energy Board will continue to set rates. The Ontario Energy Board has been setting rates; they will continue to set rates. But even in that reality, we know that there are people who need support.

For example, the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program provides emergency financial support for families and individuals who are having trouble paying their bills. The saveONenergy Home Assistance Program helps consumers save on energy costs by improving energy efficiency in their homes. The fact is that we recognize supports are necessary, and we have programs in place. But we are going to invest in infrastructure, Mr. Speaker.

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

Mr. John Yakabuski: Those programs are nothing but distractions to take people's attention away from the disasters you've put upon them.

Your rushed announcement to sell Hydro One shows you have no plan to protect ratepayers from further increases. You're motivated by the short-term goal to fund your wish list and, in turn, have no problem making things worse for electricity consumers, even though they've been hammered since you came to power.

You're ignoring the elephant in the room. As rates rise in Ontario and become more and more uncompetitive, you've driven businesses out of the province into the arms of lower-rate jurisdictions and have made electricity unaffordable for the average Ontarian. It's the ratepayers of this province who have built up energy assets like Hydro One over the decades, and they are the ones who need the break today. But you seem determined to double down on your disastrous policies.

How much more do the ratepayers of this province have to suffer before you provide real, sustainable energy relief to consumers?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: You know, the elephant that was in the room when that party was in power was that there needed to be investment in this province-there needed to be investment in the electricity system; there needed to be investment in infrastructure-none of which the opposite-

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Some of the noise I'm hearing is coming from people who are supposed to be seated elsewhere.

Finish, please.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: -none of which the party opposite undertook, Mr. Speaker. We are undertaking those investments.

Let me continue to make sure that the member opposite understands the programs that are in place because, if his concern is for people who are struggling, he will want to know about these. As he knows, currently the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit, which is a 10% discount for residential consumers and small businesses and farms, is in place. What I hope he's aware of is that the new Ontario Electricity Support Program will come into effect when the OCEB expires, and that provides targeted support for low-income families. I hope he's aware of that and he lets his constituents know.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Stop the clock. I beg for your indulgence because I've just been handed a note. There's another guest that has been inadvertently missed, Louise Russo, in the Speaker's gallery, who was shot and who recovered from a violent crime. We welcome you to the House today.

I apologize to the members; I thought it was important. We now have a new question.


Oral Questions - April 22, 2015

Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is for the Minister of Energy. I'll go directly to him because I know it's going to get dumped over there anyway.

Minister, the speed at which the price of electricity continues to escalate in Ontario under your government is even quicker than your attempt to expedite the sale of Hydro One. Your frantic desire to sell off this public asset clearly suggests and indicates that your government is desperate for money. Perhaps if you weren't recklessly wasting billions of dollars on failed gas plants, expensive wind energy experiments and defective smart meters, energy rates would be much more affordable and you wouldn't have to resort to the sale of Hydro One.

Minister, why are you continuing to do nothing to lower unaffordable energy rates for ratepayers and businesses here in the province of Ontario?

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: I'm pleased that the member mentioned electricity rates for businesses across the province. One word that the opposition never mentions is "conservation." Let me say a few words about conserveation.

Home Depot has completed 191 conservation projects province-wide. These have reduced energy consumption by more than 29 million kilowatt hours since 2012, enough electricity to power more than 3,000 typical Ontario homes per year.

Tim Hortons, Mr. Speaker-

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The Leader of the Opposition will come to order, please.

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): And Thornhill.

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Did I miss? Never mind. Thank you.

Finish, please.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: Mr. Speaker, 245 Tim Hortons restaurants underwent renovations that included energy-saving measures like switching to LED lighting and installing white roofs. Through its combined conservation efforts last year, Tim Hortons would save around four million kilowatt hours of electricity province-wide-

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

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

Supplementary?

Mr. John Yakabuski: Well, Minister, when the factory closes, their consumption goes down to zero. I guess that's your ultimate conservation plan.

Minister, you have got to stop playing games with vulnerable people in Ontario, with your energy prices. One day you announce a minuscule rebate for low-income ratepayers. However, within days, you increase their bills and the bills of everyone else across this province by an unacceptable, unsustainable 15%.

This sleight-of-hand shell game of yours has got to stop. People cannot take it anymore. They've had enough of your failed energy experiments here in the province of Ontario. Your negligence has resulted in unaffordable electricity rates, making it more and more difficult for small business, seniors and families to survive in this great province of Ontario.

Minister, as one of our PC caucus asked, will you restore competitive electricity rates in Ontario, to make them affordable for families, seniors and small businesses?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.

Minister?

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: Mr. Speaker, the member is aware of the fact that the MDF paperboard plant in Pembroke, his riding, is reopening after being accepted into the IEI Program-which is a program that supports businesses-creating 140 new jobs for the area, in his riding.

Atlantic Packaging, from Whitby, is expanding their paper mill and creating 80 jobs with the help of the new IEI Program. Detour Gold says that the program will save them $20 million in one year while they expand what will be one of the largest gold mines in Canada.

Our rates are competitive. On the residential side, there are three provinces that have higher rates than we do. There are two, Manitoba and Quebec, that are considerably lower because of legacy hydro programs. When we compare them to cities like Detroit, Boston and New York, we're considerably below them. In North America, we are competitive from an industrial business point of view, and competitive from a residential-

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

Stop the clock, please.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.

New question.


Oral Questions – April 21, 2015

Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is to the Premier. Last week the sorry state of your government’s handling of the province’s finances was once again confirmed when you told Ontarians that Hydro One was going on the auction block. Your claim is that the revenues generated from your fire sale are going to Liberal election promises, including public infrastructure, but the people don’t believe you. Your record on accountability gives them every reason not to trust you.

Premier, I asked your minister this question before, and now I’ll ask you: Will you put any deal for Hydro One in front of the Auditor General and the Financial Accountability Officer, and subject it to a value-for-money audit so the people of Ontario can know whether or not they’re getting value for their money?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Finance.

Hon. Charles Sousa: I appreciate the question.

The principles that the council is guided by are about incremental value for Ontarians and for consumers. They’re also about ensuring that we provide greater investment opportunity thereafter.

We’ve always said that we’ll be transparent and open in our discussion. So, absolutely, what we’re doing will be open for discussion, will be reviewed. There’s going to be a process over the next couple of months prior to broadening the ownership of Hydro One, and it’s going to be in the best interests of all concerned, because we’ve mandated that, and we’ll continue to do so.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. John Yakabuski: I’ll go back to the Premier.

Premier, imagine all of the roads, bridges and subways you could have built if it weren’t for all of the scandals and mismanagement over the past 12 years: eHealth, $2 billion; Ornge, $1 billion; the gas plant scandal, a billion dollars—and that’s just to name a few.

Premier, your record on openness, transparency and accountability is—how can I put this in a kind way?—abysmal.

Ratepayers need to know that the proceeds from the sale of Hydro One are going to go where the law directs that they should go; namely, the $27 billion of hydro debt. When you sell off 60% of that asset, the revenue piece will be dropped as well. It will drive up hydro rates again.

So I’ll ask you one more time: Will you subject this deal to the Auditor General and the accountability officer—

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

Minister.

Hon. Charles Sousa: Oh, Mr. Speaker, imagine if they had applied the same principles to the sale of the 407. Imagine if the annuity of the $1 billion annually was there for the benefit of the people of Ontario today.

We recognize the mistakes they made, and we’re ensuring that we don’t make them again. That is why we’re broadening ownership. That’s why we’re insisting on the integrity of dividends that’s going to be assumed by the ownership, still, of Hydro One. That’s why we’re reinvesting it into the Trillium Trust which is going to be legal because we recognize we’re also applying a portion of that to the debt of OEFC and consolidated debt.

We recognize the importance of investing. The member across has just admitted that he would not invest in those transit projects because he feels that the return on investment is greater by holding an operation that is not—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Answer.

Hon. Charles Sousa: —should be. We’re doing both. We recognize the incremental value that comes from it.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Stop the clock, please. Order. Thank you.


Oral Questions – April 14, 2015

Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Minister, over the past several years the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association has called on both the federal and the provincial governments to adopt the standards of the international grading system to help consolidate maple syrup producers, packers, distributors and consumers. The federal government has listened by implementing recent amendments to the Maple Products Regulations, and is being commended for their efforts, as this new uniform system will make it easier for consumers to identify and buy exactly what they want.

Minister, will your ministry follow suit by amending and aligning our provincial rules with the federal ones to ultimately modernize the maple syrup industry here in Ontario?

Hon. Jeff Leal: I want to thank very much the honourable gentleman from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke for asking me a question about the maple syrup industry in the province of Ontario.

We recognize on all sides of the House that the maple syrup industry is one of the oldest agriculture industries in the province of Ontario. Some 2,500 producers currently exist in Ontario. We harvest about 1.5 million litres of syrup, making Ontario one of the top three producers in Canada, grossing over $32 million in maple product sales and contributing over $53 million to Canada’s GDP.

We’re very aware of the new standards that have been brought in by the federal government, and I wanted to commend my good friend Ray Bonenberg, president of the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association, for keeping his members engaged on this very important file.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. John Yakabuski: Minister, as you know, this is not the first time we’ve talked about this. I’ve written you. I spoke to you about it on several occasions on behalf of Mr. Bonenberg and the industry.

This issue is very important to the industry. Its members don’t have the luxury of waiting around while you and your ministry get your act together. This puts Ontario at a disadvantage which can no longer continue to go unaddressed. The provincial government needs to move forward as quickly as possible so that there’s harmonization of the maple syrup grades.

Minister, you and your ministry have been dragging your feet and holding these amendments up, to the detriment of our maple syrup producers.

The time to act is now. Will you stop delaying and make the necessary amendments to regulation 119/11 before you head off on your trade mission to China? Help our industry before you head away.

Hon. Jeff Leal: In fact, in response to my good friend, I’ll be in China selling maple syrup products produced right here in Ontario.

We are taking a bit of responsible time to consult with small, medium and large maple syrup producers in the province of Ontario. Consultations will seek to identify and address requests made by maple producers, including the grading and classification of maple products. We want to have a robust consultation and we’re aiming to have something in place by January 1, 2016.

It’s our view, when it comes to this policy, we want to make sure we’re in the sweet spot with regard to maple syrup in Ontario.


Oral Questions – April 13, 2015

Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is for the Deputy Premier. The Premier won’t cancel her trip to Quebec, which I might add would cost taxpayers even more with your new tax on everything.

When British Columbia implemented their carbon tax, they pledged to lower other taxes an equal amount, so the average family wouldn’t be paying more—no more taxes, just different taxes. Deputy Premier, in Economics 101 that’s called a tax shift. What your government is doing—that’s called a tax grab. You’re taking more from the average Ontarian’s pocketbook because you can’t and won’t control your spending.

I oppose your cap-and-tax scheme, but since we can’t stop your misguided decision will you ensure that this will not cost Ontario taxpayers more and that you will not turn this into your newest revenue tool?

Hon. Deborah Matthews: I think that the member opposite has raised an important question, and that is, where will the money raised go? I can tell you that we will be very transparent in how we spend that money. It will be reinvested back into projects that—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Stop the clock. Members will come to order.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Start the clock.

Finish, please.

Hon. Deborah Matthews: As I was saying—

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Simcoe North will come to order, second time—right after I got quiet.

Hon. Deborah Matthews: —the money will be invested transparently back into projects that help reduce pollution and help businesses remain competitive. Projects may include helping families to be more energy efficient—

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound, come to order.

Hon. Deborah Matthews: —building more public transit to reduce congestion, helping plants and businesses reduce their pollution. We will be announcing the full plan later this year. But make no mistake, there are savings associated for individual people. In fact, let’s look at the experience in California. I’ll save that for the supplementary.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. John Yakabuski: Only a Liberal could say that with a straight face, Speaker.

Again, to the Deputy Premier: When a cap-and-trade scheme was introduced in Europe, powerful industrial lobbyists armed with millions of dollars “convinced ... governments to issue more carbon credits than” were actually required, than there were “actual emissions.” That led to emissions going up, not down.

We’ve all seen what your government does when lobbyists come knocking, and you need money or votes. We’ve witnessed your party cost taxpayers billions, with the gas plant scandal, the eHealth scandal, the smart meter fiasco, and you handed out sweetheart deals to your Liberal friends through the Green Energy Act. I doubt this is going to be any different. This scheme sounds like another Liberal boondoggle in the making.

Deputy Premier, what do you plan to do when the lobbyists come calling?

Hon. Deborah Matthews: I think that it’s important to look at the experience of other jurisdictions that have implemented cap and trade: California, for example. It’s true that the University of California, Berkeley, estimated that cap and trade does add about 2.6 cents per litre. However—and this is the important “however” that seems to be beyond the ability of the—

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound is warned.

Carry on.

Hon. Deborah Matthews: Thank you. However, California estimates that the amount the average person spends on fuels declines from $1,400 a year to $1,000 a year because this kind of initiative actually results in improved vehicle efficiency and other measures to reduce fuel use.

There is a cost to climate change. I would love to hear what the party opposite is advising us to do on climate change, or are they just wanting to turn their back on the issue and leave—

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke, come to order.

New question.


Oral Questions – April 2, 2015

Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is to the Minister of Energy. Minister, let me help by laying out how the Ontario Electricity Financial Corp. works under the law. Currently, the OEFC has about $11.2 billion in stranded debt on top of the $17 billion it is guaranteed from a Hydro One sale. The OEFC currently pays down that $11.2-billion debt through the profits made at Hydro One and OPG. But Minister, if you sell any portion of Hydro One, that revenue stream that is used to pay down the debt will shrink.

How will the OEFC pay down the electricity debt if you take away its primary source of income?

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: Minister of Finance.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The members will come to order.

Minister.

Hon. Charles Sousa: It’s a great question coming from a member, the critic, who actually was part of the government that created the residual debt, and now there’s a retirement charge that the people of Ontario and ratepayers have to repay. As a result, we have taken the precautions and the necessary steps to bring it down.

The member opposite should also know, and he knows fully well, that it’s a function of the revenues coming through that stream, and when those change, it changes the amount of the residual debt. We’re taking every precaution and every care necessary to get it reduced. We’re helping the people of Ontario because of the damages that they created in the past.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. John Yakabuski: Well, Speaker, I’ve never actually sat in government, but I am looking forward to the day.

Again to the Minister of Energy: Minister, we know how you’re going to pay down the debt at OEFC if you sell Hydro One: You’re going to introduce new charges on the bills of electricity ratepayers. It’s the only way you people know how to do business.

Hydro prices are already unaffordable. Just last week, you admitted that they’re going to go up by about $140 per year per customer. I can only imagine what the increase will be when you realize you have to pay down the OEFC debt with less revenue coming from less ownership in Hydro One.

Minister, what new charges will the electricity ratepayers of Ontario see on their bills in order to pay down the debt that you are ignoring?

Hon. Charles Sousa: Well, Mr. Speaker, a couple of things. The OEB is going to be a regulator; it is now and it will continue to be as we proceed forward in any initiatives in regard to pricing. Of course, the minister, and I’ll let him take the next supplementary, has done an excellent job of finding ways to mitigate and protect the people of Ontario and ratepayers as we proceed forward.

The member opposite is also part of a party whose potential leader is talking about looking at this very issue. They’re working on the premise that they want to be able to look at the valuations and the assets that we have before us to see how we can improve upon them. The member opposite and his team are the ones that have also initiated some of these ideas as they follow our lead.

We will lead. We will continue to do what’s right to protect the interests of the public.

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

Mr. John Yakabuski: After 12 years of this mess, they’ve even confused themselves, Speaker. So let’s recap.

Again to the Minister of Energy: The OEFC needs revenue to pay down the $11.2 billion of debt that it currently holds, but by selling off Hydro One, you’re going to have to share that revenue with the new buyer. That means less money for the OEFC to pay down that debt. The only way your Liberal government will make up that lost revenue is by hosing electricity ratepayers yet again.

Minister, when are you going to tell the ratepayers that electricity bills are going to continue to skyrocket when you try to pay down the $11-billion debt that you’re responsible for?

Hon. Charles Sousa: Minister of Energy.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: Mr. Speaker, the member is beginning with a false premise. He’s beginning with a supposition or a speculation as to what we might be bringing forward.

But let’s talk about the general principle. I have a quote here that I’d like to read. This quote says—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry will come to order.

Carry on.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: The quote I have says, “As Premier, I will order an immediate review of all assets owned by government. Assets that don’t serve the core functions of government will be divested. And every dollar made will be invested in new infrastructure right across the province.”

And “Let’s use the full value of these assets to build the roads, highways, subways and infrastructure that every Ontarian can use.”

That is from Christine Elliott, member from Whitby–Oshawa, in her campaign. If that’s part of her campaign, she should walk over here and join us.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Order. Stop the clock.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Start the clock.

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): No. Your own caucus members were heckling.

New question.


Oral Questions – March 30, 2015

Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is to the Premier. We’re just coming off one of the coldest winters on record, and the consequences of your reckless hydro policies are more apparent than ever. Most Ontarians are struggling because the cost of energy is rising much faster than their ability to pay. This is because they’re paying 14 cents a kilowatt hour plus all the extras you slap on, like the global adjustment, debt retirement charge and distribution costs for on-peak electricity. When your government took office, they were paying 4.3 cents a kilowatt hour.

Premier, the current chaos in the energy system is all on you. The only way to fix it is to change direction. Will you turn away from your failed energy policies, which have damaged our economy and caused untold misery to ratepayers, and commit to making Ontario once again an energy-competitive jurisdiction?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Let me just say to the member opposite that the fact is, when we came into office, the electricity system in this province was degraded. It had been neglected. It was in no shape to deliver reliable power to people across this province.

Some 10,000 kilometres of transmission line have been rebuilt and repaired, because that party did not put the money into infrastructure that was needed. So we have done that work. We have made those investments. We are aware that there’s a cost associated with that. I hope that the member opposite is very pleased at the plan that we announced last week—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member for Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke will come to order, as will the member from Glengarry–Prescott–Russell.

Carry on, please.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: —the Ontario Electricity Support Program, that in fact addresses the fact that people on low income are struggling in many cases, and they need a break, and that’s what that program will provide.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. John Yakabuski: Back to the Premier: Premier, you know that the primary reason hydro bills are going up is because of your Green Energy Act and its intermittent, unreliable and expensive energy.

Your announcement last week about the stipend you’ll be giving to low-income energy consumers is nothing more than a shell game. Almost every ratepayer is struggling to pay their bills, because under your watch, hydro bills have gone up and more than tripled since 2003.

People have no faith in your ability to administer this sliding-scale shell game. As the Ombudsman investigation clearly shows, your team can’t even get a simple residential bill right, even though you’ve wasted $2 billion on your smart-meter fiasco.

Premier, how much more bureaucracy will be needed to administer this new convoluted program, and how much more will that cost the energy ratepayers of this province?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: The Ontario Electricity Support Program is designed specifically to help people who have the lowest income in the province and who are struggling. I think that is exactly the kind of support that needs to be put in place.

The fact is, we took a dirty electricity system and we shut down the coal-fired plants. We’ve rebuilt the system. We’ve made the investments that were needed, so we’re dealing with a clean energy regime now in Ontario.

The other thing that we’ve done is we have renegotiated—

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Lanark will come to order. You’re inches away; I can hear.

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Jim, do something about that.

Carry on.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: We’ve renegotiated agreements like the Samsung agreement that will actually save $3.7 billion. We’ve changed the domestic content rules. We are working with Quebec on an off-peak/on-peak agreement that will allow us to get clean power from Quebec at a time when we need it and send our power to them when they need it. So we’ve taken a system that was not reliable—

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

Mr. John Yakabuski: Premier, you’re always congratulating yourself on how egalitarian you are, but the hydro system you’ve created is anything but fair and equal. As revealed by the sunshine list, salaries for staff in the energy sector are rising sharply. Some 77% of Hydro One employees and 80% of OPG employees made over $100,000 last year. At the same time, ratepayers have seen their salaries flatline, and 300,000 people in the manufacturing sector don’t have a paycheque at all because of your economic mismanagement and Ontario’s anemic growth since your party took power.

Premier, it is your duty to ensure that there is balance in the system between the remuneration of employees and the consumers’ ability to pay. Ratepayers cannot afford to wait any longer. Will you live up to your own rhetoric, scrap the Green Energy Act and restore some semblance of balance to our energy system?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure.

Hon. Brad Duguid: For goodness’ sake, Mr. Speaker, the people he’s talking about are the very people who run our nuclear plants. Do you really think that that’s where we should go in terms of reducing salaries? The people who run our nuclear plants? When we go to bed at night, we want to make sure that we have the best people in the world running our energy system.

Right now, when you look at people like Tom Mitchell, considered the best at doing the kind of work that he does in the world—we owe it to the people of this province to ensure that we have the best-quality people running organizations like OPG, to ensure that those nuclear plants are safe, for all Ontarians to be able to know that we have one of the best records in the world when it comes to nuclear. That is not the place to start when it comes to cutbacks. This government will not in any way sacrifice safety for the sake of anything with regard to cutting back like the member wants—

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


 Oral Questions – March 25, 2015

Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is to the Minister of Energy. Minister, there has been much speculation, but few hard facts, about your selling off of Hydro One. It’s very worrisome how secretive you have been throughout this process.

Hydro One is the property of the people of Ontario, and they have every right to know your party’s schemes to sell their assets to dig you out of the fiscal mess that you and your Premier have created.

Your leader constantly talks about running an open and transparent government. Now is your chance to live up to her words. Minister, when do you intend to reveal to the people exactly what you plan to do with Hydro One?

I think the question implies something terrible about the timing. The reality is, Mr. Clark has been working on this now for 10 months. He has a team of very experienced, sensitive, responsible people who are looking at all of our assets to see how they can be repurposed so that we can fund the infrastructure and fund the projects that the members on the other side continually ask for.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: Mr. Speaker, I think the Premier and other members of cabinet have made it very, very clear that decisions with respect to our assets and our repurposing of assets will likely be included in the next budget.

They stand up and ask for transit. They are asking for transit in all parts of the province, and now we’re going to—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. Supplementary?

Mr. John Yakabuski: Minister, Hydro One is paid for by the electricity consumers of this province. They are the ones who have built the asset. They are the ones who own it. The company’s operations, employees and pensions have been paid for by the electricity ratepayers.

Minister, you have already socked it to the energy consumers, with them paying among the highest energy prices in North America. You have suggested that you plan to take any proceeds from the potential sale and invest it in infrastructure. How can you justify putting the cost of infrastructure onto the hydro bills of the people of this province?

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the member that the directions and instructions that we have provided to those experts who are advising us is that the interests of the ratepayer shall be paramount. We believe there will be opportunities for significant mitigation of rates under a new structure that we would set up.

In addition to that, the members know that this is a regulated industry, that the Ontario Energy Board manages the rates in this province for gas and for electricity and that frequently requests for increased rates are rejected or they’re lowered by the Ontario Energy Board.

We have a strong advocate for the consumer in the Ontario Energy Board. Regardless of what happens, the Ontario Energy Board will continue to strongly represent the interests of the consumer.

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

Mr. John Yakabuski: Minister, in 12 years you have never put the interests of the energy consumer first, not once. They don’t trust your government on the energy file. They’ve seen their hydro bills more than triple since 2003. Disasters, scandals and fiascos are the legacy of your energy policy. The people are worried that because of your desperate need for cash, you will sell off Hydro One at far below market value.

Minister, will you commit to the people of Ontario today that before any deal is signed, you will put it in front of the Financial Accountability Officer and the Auditor General so that they can vet it to ensure that Ontarians are getting fair market value for the asset that they own?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated please. Order.

Hon. Bob Chiarelli: Minister of Finance.

Hon. Charles Sousa: Wow, this is really rich, coming from that side of the House. I tell you, that’s the party that messed up in the first place and left us with a legacy of stranded debt that is costing ratepayers to this day, Mr. Speaker.

What we’re going to do, and what we’ve made very clear in the budget in 2014, is to do a full review of these assets, which are rightly owned by the people of Ontario. That is exactly who we’re fighting for. That’s why we’re going to do everything we can.

I may also say that it’s premature to make any responses, because decisions haven’t been made specifically on the report that’s being done right now, but the principles are guided by the fact that public interest must remain paramount and is protected; that decisions are in line with maximizing value for Ontarians; and that the decision process will remain transparent, professional and independently validated.


 Oral Questions – March 11, 2015

Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is for the Premier. Premier, it’s become apparent to everyone that despite your assertions otherwise, you have no intention of aiding the Ontario Provincial Police in their investigation into this Sudbury bribery scandal.

It has been more than five long weeks since the OPP made it known that they would like to speak with you regarding your involvement in this sordid affair. If you had nothing to do with this scandal, you would have been eager to speak with the police. You would have done it over five weeks ago.

Premier, are you stonewalling because you are the central player in this investigation and all the orders can be traced back to you?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I’ll be meeting with the OPP when that meeting is arranged. I’ve been very clear that I will work with the authorities. As I’ve said over and over again in this House, that meeting is being set up, and I will take part in it when it’s arranged.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. John Yakabuski: Premier, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by your reluctance to speak to the OPP or to answer questions, because we all know that dodging and ducking has become your MO.

I remember very well your questionable testimony to the gas plants committee.

Hon. Liz Sandals: Where did you get your information?

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The Minister of Education, come to order.

Mr. John Yakabuski: The difference here is that you’d be answering questions directly—

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Excuse me. Stop the clock. Right through my request for you to come to order, you continued speaking. Minister of Education, come to order.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Premier, the difference here is that you would be answering questions directly in front of the Ontario Provincial Police. You can’t get your MPPs to shut them down.

Criminal investigations into breaches of the Election Act and bribery allegations will eventually hold everyone involved responsible. The OPP are not going away. We, the opposition, are not going away. Will you finally do the right thing, co-operate, meet with the police and, in the meantime, suspend Pat Sorbara and Gerry Lougheed?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

Hon. Yasir Naqvi: First of all, on this side of the House, we don’t want the opposition to go away either. We want them to stay where they are. It suits them well.

Let me tell you, Speaker, what the Premier’s strategy is. The Premier’s strategy is simple: It’s to serve the people of Ontario. She is doing so by working on issues that are important to Ontarians. That’s what she ran on in the last election and that’s what we received a majority mandate on: to focus on building Ontario up, making sure that we are investing in our infrastructure across the province, making sure that we have retirement income security for hard-working Ontarians.

There is a process that is going on outside of this Legislature. The Premier has been absolutely clear that she will co-operate and that all of those details are being worked out. But what we need to focus on in this House is issues that are important to Ontarians. We should not interfere in an independent investigation, and I urge the members to please focus on issues.


 Oral Questions – March 10, 2015

Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is to the Premier: We have risen again and again in this House to try to compel you to do the right thing concerning the Sudbury by-election scandal by removing Pat Sorbara and Gerry Lougheed from their positions of power and authority. You are so off the mark on this issue.

Yesterday we learned that three senior officials from the Ontario Provincial Police Association stepped aside, or were asked to step aside, when they became the subject of a police investigation.

Premier, will you do the right thing and remove your deputy city chief of staff, Pat Sorbara, and your political bagman, Gerry Lougheed, until this police investigation has been completed?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Let me just remind the member opposite that the OPP and the OPPA operate entirely independently and I have no knowledge of the situation there. It’s an active police matter and obviously I can’t comment on it—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Oh, I think you knew I was coming for you. The member from Renfrew, come to order, please. The member from Lanark, come to order.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I’ve been very clear about our position in terms of co-operating with the authorities in an investigation that’s taking place outside of this House. We will continue to work with the authorities as is appropriate, not in this Legislature.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. John Yakabuski: Premier, what a sad response to such a simple question.

On election night last year, you said that the people had put their trust in you and that you wouldn’t let them down. You said that you would lead with integrity, that people would not be taken for granted—such hollow words.

Premier, you love to point to examples of people doing the right thing. Well, here’s a clear-cut example of just that. The OPPA officials who are under police investigation had the decency to step aside until the matter is cleared up.

Why is it that police officers in this province can do the right thing, but Liberals can’t? Why won’t you put Gerry Lougheed and Pat Sorbara in the penalty box until this is completed? Is that simply because of Liberal arrogance?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: The Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

Hon. Yasir Naqvi: I think the member opposite knows that we have something called presumption of innocence in our system of democracy, where we do not judge people until they are proven guilty, if that’s the case. And that determination is made by the judge, not by the members of this House. We should respect that, Speaker.

In fact, even the Chief Electoral Officer in his report said, “I am neither deciding to prosecute a matter nor determining anyone’s guilt or innocence. Those decisions are respectively for prosecutors and judges.” The Chief Electoral Officer is absolutely right. It is a matter for a judge to decide if any charges are laid. As we know, in this matter, no charges have been laid. There’s a live investigation. We should respect that police investigation and we should not interfere in the matter whatsoever.

In our system of democracy, people are innocent until they are proven guilty. In this case, everyone is innocent because no charges have been laid.

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

Mr. John Yakabuski: Premier, the arrogance over there is something that I believe you’ll live to regret.

I remind you again: Three officials from the Ontario Provincial Police Association have stepped aside. They have done the right thing. We find out today that you haven’t even interviewed with the OPP about the Sudbury by-election scandal.

Premier, you were so quick to interview with the Chief Electoral Officer about this scandal, but you can’t find the time to interview with the OPP. Is it because the Chief Electoral Officer is a provincial appointee but the OPP carry handcuffs?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.

Minister?

Hon. Yasir Naqvi: Again, I don’t know how many times we need to remind the members opposite that this is not the place or the time in the House to be interfering in a police investigation. In fact, if the member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke looked to the member from Leeds–Grenville, he should take his advice, which is not to interfere in an ongoing police investigation.

It is disappointing that the Conservatives, being the official opposition, are not focusing on the real issues that are facing Ontarians. They don’t want to talk about things that will help—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Lanark is warned, and the member from Prince Edward–Hastings: second time.

Carry on and finish, please.

Hon. Yasir Naqvi: It is time that we focused on the real issues at hand. We need to focus on making sure that we are growing our economy. We need to make sure that we are creating good-paying jobs for all hard-working Ontarians in all four corners of this province. I ask the opposition to really start focusing back on things that people have sent us here to talk about, and that is our economy and our jobs.


 Oral Questions – March 4, 2015

Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is for the Premier. Since the very beginnings of this Sudbury by-election—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Stop the clock.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Order, please. Let’s reboot.

The member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you, Speaker. My question is for the Premier. Since the very beginnings of this Sudbury by-election scandal, you have made many sad excuses for Liberals behaving in unethical ways.

From the response in my riding and, in fact, from all across this great province, I can tell you that Ontarians are saying that by your unwillingness to admit wrongdoing and dismiss those who are accused of criminal offences, you are diminishing the high office you hold.

Later today, our leader will address the House regarding his opposition day motion. Will you finally accept responsibility for defending Liberals under criminal investigation and acknowledge that, if you will not have them step aside, you are in fact breaching the public trust?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Deputy Premier.

Hon. Deborah Matthews: Speaker, I can assure the members opposite and anyone watching that we take this issue very, very seriously. We’ve heard the Premier, time and time again, talk about how any investigation should be conducted by qualified people outside of this Legislature. In fact, when asked about charges laid against a PC staff member just this week, the PC member from Whitby–Oshawa said, “I really don’t have a comment to make on this because it’s before the courts.”

The PC House leader agrees with the member from Whitby–Oshawa—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Order.

Hon. Deborah Matthews: He said, “Stop interfering in an ongoing investigation. Let it run its course.”

So we actually take the wisdom from the members opposite to heart—

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Leeds–Grenville, come to order.

Hon. Deborah Matthews: —and we will not be discussing this in the House.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. John Yakabuski: Speaker, that was a sad and disappointing response from the Deputy Premier.

Premier, back to you: During your leadership speech you said that this is the time, right now, “to show that we’ve learned from our mistakes. That they will not happen again.” By standing in the way of our opposition motion, you will show that this is the same tired, arrogant, unethical Liberal government that you inherited from Dalton McGuinty. You have put your own ego and the needs of your party before the needs of the people of Ontario.

Premier, I ask you again: Will you acknowledge the breach of ethics, stop stonewalling our efforts to get to the bottom of this scandal and put Pat Sorbara and Gerry Lougheed in the penalty box, at least until this investigation is complete?

Hon. Deborah Matthews: I have to say that what I find to be very disappointing is that both opposition parties have, for the last number of weeks, asked the same question over and over and over again. They have used their questions to do this muckraking instead of focusing on issues that matter.

We have people from the credit unions here today; they’ve got important questions. I think they’d like you to be asking us questions about what they’re here to discuss. We’ve had various people here—the children’s treatment centres. I bet they have questions that they’d like you to be asking us.

You’ve asked the questions over and over again. You’ve had the same answer over and over again. I think you’re letting your constituents down by not asking the questions they want to hear answers to.


Oral Questions – March 2, 2015 

Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is for the Premier. Premier, last week we learned that Gerry Lougheed has raised over $100,000—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Order. Stop the clock.

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I’m doing it. Come to order.

Member, continue.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Gerry Lougheed has raised over $100,000 for Justin Trudeau and your federal cousins. Now, since this Sudbury bribery scandal broke, the federal Liberals have cut him loose, but they’re keeping the money. It is clear that Liberals will take money no matter who raises it.

Premier, will you tell us how much money Gerry Lougheed has raised for the provincial Liberals, and if you have any intent of returning any of that ill-gotten gain?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Mr. Speaker, hope sprang eternal. I thought that the member for Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke was going to stand up and distance himself from the comments of his federal riding-mate. He just sprang up out of his seat, and I thought that’s what was going to happen—which would have been a laudable thing for him to do, because the comments of his federal counterpart were truly beneath the dignity of a member of the House of Commons.

Again, I will say that the matter that the member is referencing is part of an investigation that’s happening outside of this House. We’re going to let that investigation unfold.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. John Yakabuski: Premier, perhaps you are so adamantly defending Gerry Lougheed because he’s worth more to you driving the bus than being put under it.

Premier, if you refuse to give numbers about how much Gerry Lougheed has poured into your party coffers, perhaps you can answer this: Don’t your actions of defending a Liberal bagman under criminal investigation clearly show that your party and you, as a leader, are willing to put their own economic self-interests ahead of the people of Ontario and, in fact, the rule of law?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.

Premier?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Thank you to the member opposite for the question. He knows that if he wants to get information about money that is raised, that information is disclosed publicly, as it is for all of the parties. He can look at that information largely because of—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Order.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: —we brought in about transparency and the disclosure of information. As far as—

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Order. The member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke, second time.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Just to close, Mr. Speaker, I will say there is an investigation going on. We will co-operate with the authorities. It’s happening outside of this House.


 Oral Questions – February 23, 2015

Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is also for the Premier. Premier, you held a press conference on Friday. The whole world was hoping that you would do the right thing. Instead, you doubled down on your sad response from the day before.

Premier, you had the chance to do the right thing. You had the opportunity to cut Pat Sorbara and Gerry Lougheed loose, at least until these investigations are complete. Instead, you chose to stand by them. According to the Chief Electoral Officer, they have broken the law, yet you continue to stand behind Sorbara and Lougheed. Is it because you gave them direct orders to offer inducements to Andrew Olivier? Premier, are you not in fact protecting them so that they’ll protect you?

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

Mr. John Yakabuski: Premier, are you not in fact—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Time’s up.

Premier?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Again, let me just be clear about what the Chief Electoral Officer said last week: “I am neither deciding to prosecute a matter nor determining anyone’s guilt or innocence. Those decisions are respectively for prosecutors and judges.” The investigations are entirely independent, Mr. Speaker; they are ongoing. Right now, we are dealing with allegations. In my statement on Friday, I made it clear that if there are charges, then my staff member will step aside. I made it very clear exactly why we had the conversations with our past candidate. I will continue to do the work of the government while those investigations are going on.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Premier, you came to office saying you would hold the office to a higher standard. In your two years, you have failed every time you’ve been tested on that promise. You failed again last week. This is your chance for a re-test. Stop protecting yourself by protecting Lougheed and Sorbara.

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Minister of Economic Development—second time.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Two years ago, you said you would run things a new way when it came to ethics and accountability. When it comes to ethics and accountability now, you’re just running away.

Premier, you’ve been caught in your own snare. Now it’s time to come clean. Order the resignations of Sorbara and Lougheed, or consider your own.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: On this issue of doing things differently, one of the things I said on Friday—and I used this example because I think it is a stark example of a change. There have been members of the opposition who have come forward and have asked for appointments from our government in exchange for stepping down from their seats. I’m not suggesting that this is the first time in history this has ever happened; I know there are lots of examples of this. But what’s different, Mr. Speaker, is that I said no. On the advice of my staff and in consultation with my staff, we said, “No. No, we’re not going to do that. We’re not going to proffer an appointment in exchange for an opposition member stepping down from his seat.”

That is an example. I was using that as an example of how things have changed and how we are doing things differently.


Oral Questions – February 19, 2015 

Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is for the Premier. Premier, the report from Elections Ontario is not ambivalent; it is clear. There is an apparent breach of the rules. They have broken the law according to the Chief Electoral Officer. They have broken the law.

Premier, you have claimed to be a leader. I ask you to show some of that leadership. You talked about always acting in the best interests of Ontarians with a commitment to transparency, to openness and to accountability. Show that you are accountable and cut Pat Sorbara and Gerry Lougheed loose, at least until the time that this investigation is complete, the Attorney General has completed their investigation and the OPP have completed theirs.

Show some leadership and have these people step aside so that the people across this province can believe there is some integrity left in this government.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Mr. Speaker, let me just once again read what the Chief Electoral Officer has said: “To form an opinion that conduct amounts to an ‘apparent contravention’ as set out in S. 4.0.2 of the Election Act, I must be satisfied, based on the evidence obtained in my investigation, that there is a prima facie case of a contravention.

“This means I must be aware of sufficient facts that, if proven correct, would constitute a contravention of the Election Act or the Election Finances Act.”

He goes on to say, “I am neither deciding to prosecute a matter nor determining anyone’s guilt or innocence. Those decisions are respectively for prosecutors and judges.”

That is what the Chief Electoral Officer has said, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. John Yakabuski: Premier, leadership is not by demonstrating how long you can stonewall. Leadership is about doing the right thing, even if it hurts, even if it’s an admission that something wasn’t right on your part.

I guess we could ask: Are you protecting Pat Sorbara and Gerry Lougheed because they were working under your direct orders? Did they make those offers under your direct orders? Or will you do the right thing, respect the report from the Chief Electoral Officer and send these people into the penalty box? At the very least, if you’re not going to fire them outright, put them in the penalty box until this matter can be cleared up. On behalf of the people of Ontario, I ask you: Do the right thing.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Stop the clock. Be seated, please. Thank you.

Premier?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Deputy Premier.

Hon. Deborah Matthews: Speaker, let me try this one more time. I’m quoting from the Chief Electoral Officer. He said, “I am neither”—

Interjections.

Hon. Deborah Matthews: Listen: “I am neither”—

Interjections.

Hon. Deborah Matthews: Okay, don’t listen. “I am neither deciding to prosecute”—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Stop the clock, please.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Start the clock.

Finish, please.

Hon. Deborah Matthews: The Chief Electoral Officer writes: “I am neither deciding to prosecute a matter nor determining anyone’s guilt or innocence.” That is clearly what the Chief Electoral Officer has said.

Speaker, the people of Sudbury have made a decision. The opposition is not happy with that decision, but I think at least they need to respect that decision. The new member for Sudbury has been a very strong advocate and championing the causes that matter to the people—

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