hydro hurts economy, Hampton says
Power bills 30% higher
The National Post
WAWA - Glaring orange NDP placards and For Sale signs share
the lawns of this North Ontario town near the shore of Lake
A private company owns the power generators and transmission
and distribution lines in Wawa, and since hydro deregulation,
residents of this mining and logging town say their electricity
bills have been almost 30% higher than those of others
across the province. As a result, jobs have been lost,
stores have closed and people have left town, and during
a campaign stop in the town yesterday, NDP leader Howard
Hampton named Wawa the "canary in the coal mine for
hydro privatization and deregulation."
The candidate in the Oct. 2 provincial election told
supporters the Conservative government plans to continue
with its deregulation of the energy market, despite the
impact it has had in Northern Ontario.
"Wawa is an example of what happens with full-blown
privatization," he said.
Mr. Hampton visited ridings in Sudbury, Wawa and Sault
Ste. Marie yesterday, bringing his "public power"
message to Northern Ontario because he said it is here
that industries will be most affected by higher energy
"How sustainable is Northern Ontario's economic
future if full-blown privatization means you're paying
prices in the neighbourhood of 10 times what it costs
to produce electricity?" he asked a crowd of supporters,
many of them employees of Wawa's River Gold Mine.
David Ansara, the company's finance officer, said electricity
bills have the potential to shut the operation down. Since
deregulation in May, 2000, the company's energy costs
have risen to 10% of its $35-million annual operating
cost, from 7% in a regulated market.
"It's very critical to our industry," he said.
"We definitely consume more electricity in the North."
Mr. Hampton said bills in the region should be substantially
lower than in other parts of Ontario because of its proximity
to seven major power dams. "Wawa ought to have possibly
the lowest hydro rates in Ontario, possibly in North America.
But in deregulated hydro, it's not how much it costs,
it's how high you can drive the price."
He accused the Conservative government under Ernie Eves
of offering Wawa rate assistance "just before people
have to go to the polls.'
"The only thing we've seen over the past few months
is a government that has tried to hide this issue, to
hide the full economic and social impact of this issue
because an election is on the way," he said, adding
the company that controls Wawa's grid contributed $150,000
to Mr. Eves's leadership campaign.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Hampton used a chunk of Swiss
cheese to demonstrate the problems with Mr. Eves's policy
on Hydro deregulation, saying it is full of holes.
"You want to know what Ernie Eves's energy policy
looks like?" he asked, showing the slice of cheese
to a group of supporters and journalists outside the Falconbridge
Mine near Sudbury.
He said both Mr. Eves and Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty
declined to acknowledge the problems of selling off Hydro
One until the "eve of an election," and do not
understand the impact rising rates have on Northern Ontario
industries such as mines, smelting plants and paper mills.
"Those of us who live in Northern Ontario know industries
like this have to have reliable energy," he said,
gesturing toward the mine. "If energy costs go up,
plants like this have to shut down and thousands of jobs
will be lost."
Mr. Hampton was joined at the Sudbury event by his wife,
Shelley Martel, MPP for the Nickel Belt riding. His own
riding of Rainy River is also in Ontario's North, and
the NDP candidate believes he has a strong support in
the region for his opposition of privately sold electricity.
But Mr. Hampton declined repeated requests from a local
reporter about other issues concerning residents of the
North, such as education and the loss of local industry
and jobs, returning consistently to the topic of power.
"You will not bring new industry, you will not bring
new jobs to the region without a cheap, reliable source
of energy," he said. "Our interests in Northern
Ontario are intimately tied with this issue."
When the reporter failed to accept that a publicly owned
electricity system would help the quality of education
and the availability of efficient health care in the North,
Mr. Hampton deferred those topics to another time.
"In the next couple of weeks, I'll be very happy
to lay out our plan on that," said Mr. Hampton. "I'm
not here today to lay out A to Z, I'm here today for a