Faced with soaring energy bills, Ontario businesses demand ‘love’ from Queen’s Park – by Chris Selley (National Post – December 21, 2016)


TORONTO — The Ontario Liberals’ electricity price nightmare has plenty of human faces: middle-class parents, gainfully employed, struggling to pay for an essential utility. The opposition attack ads in 2018 will practically write themselves: Ontarians have endured a more-than-70-per-cent rate hike over a decade, driven mostly by production costs that were the direct result of Liberal decisions.

Through 2014, auditor general Bonnie Lysyk found last year, the system extracted $37 billion extra from Ontarians’ pockets. The nightmare might soon have a more recognizable corporate face. A group of small-to-medium-sized businesses calling itself the Coalition of Concerned Manufacturers of Ontario invited reporters on a tour of Leland Industries’ fasteners plant in Scarborough on Tuesday.

There were the good-paying blue-collar jobs. And here was a group of employers saying Ontario’s electric bills, and its forthcoming cap-and-trade system, were pushing them toward the brink.

“Many of the manufacturers in this room have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars … on energy-efficient equipment so we can lower our greenhouse gas (emissions),” said Jocelyn Bamford, vice-president of sales and marketing at Automatic Coating. “We have done … our part to make sure we’re participants in the global cause.”

Certainly, she said, none of the manufacturers in the room wanted to leave Ontario for cheaper energy jurisdictions — which are legion. And yet: “We are courted on a weekly basis by U.S. areas that want us to move our plants down there. They welcome us with open arms,” she said. “We want to have the same feeling from the Ontario government. Because right now, we are not feeling the love.”

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