What do electricity prices have in common with the rain? Politicians don’t control either. However, hearing the Ontario Conservatives and NDPs slamming the Liberals this week for rising electricity costs and pretending they somehow have the answer, you’d hardly know it. But the fact is, any politician who promises low electricity rates is selling a lie — one that all of us end up paying for sooner or later.
Ontario’s electricity woes stem back to the late 1970s and, over the past 40 odd years, all three parties have had a hand in them. It started with the building of the Darlington nuclear station, which the Bill Davis Tories approved and the David Peterson Liberals saw through to completion — 10 years late and almost $12 billion over budget. No one could afford to pay the real cost of Darlington, so Ontarians carried that debt for the next three decades.
Over that time, electricity — like cars, and coffee, and just about everything else we buy — didn’t get cheaper, it got more expensive. And when the recession hit in 1993, and electricity prices were rising, people got angry. The party in power at that time, the NDP, did the popular thing; it froze electricity rates, halting investment in the power system.