Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Selling off Most of Hydro One Is a Big Risk for Ontario

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Selling off Most of Hydro One Is a Big Risk for Ontario

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Selling off most of Hydro One is a big risk for Ontario

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An editorial from the Toronto Star, published April 17:

Selling beer in grocery stores - with all the appropriate social safeguards - is a good idea that is long, long overdue in Ontario. Premier Kathleen Wynne's Liberal government will earn applause from voters for pushing ahead with this move, and deservedly so.

But loosening the province's absurdly rigid rules for selling alcohol is, quite literally, small beer compared to the other, less sexy moves that the premier announced on Thursday.

The government is stepping into a political and financial minefield with its proposal to sell off most of Hydro One, the provincial Crown corporation that builds and operates the power grid. It would be much better advised to keep at least a majority stake in the utility to make sure the public interest is safeguarded in the future.

Conservative and Liberal governments have been eyeing Ontario's rich hydro assets greedily for a decade and a half, but they've always backed off on privatization schemes in the end. The public, quite rightly, is wary of such moves, especially as our electricity prices continue to spiral ever higher. Bungled privatizations like Highway 407 and the ORNGE air ambulance sell-off haven't helped.

Now the premier promises she has found the right formula. Under this latest plan, 60 per cent of Hydro One would be sold off gradually, raising about $9 billion for the treasury. Some $5 billion of that would go to pay down the province's deficit, with the other $4 billion going into a fund to finance badly needed transit plans.

At the same time, the province would keep a 40-per-cent share of the company and no private investor would be allowed to own more than 10 per cent. The Ontario Energy Board would be strengthened and prices would still be regulated. …

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