Deception Pinocchio style
By Jim Poling
Published Sept. 15, 2016
Oh! What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.
Sir Walter Scott had never heard of Ontario when he wrote that line for his play Marmion back in 1808. Ontario wasn’t even a province back then.
Wally didn’t know it then but his words were the perfect fit for the province that has become a Pinocchio factory. Wherever you turn, some political leader or captain of industry is twisting the facts, hiding the facts or outright lying.
A recent example comes from Hydro One, which is owed $105 million by folks who cannot afford to pay their outrageously high electricity bills.
Global News recently asked Hydro One to say how many people in each of the past 10 years have had their electricity disconnected because they did not pay their power bills.
A simple question. An important question because the answer would show how many customers have been hurt seriously by skyrocketing Ontario electricity rates.
Ten years ago, the off peak charge for electricity in Ontario was 3.5 cents per kilowatt hour. Today it is 8.7 centres per kwh. The mid rate back in 2006 was 7.5 cents per kwh. Now it is 13.2. Peak rate was 10.5 and now is 18.
The current numbers will go up again on Nov. 1. Plus, Hydro One has applied for a new set of increases for 2017 and 2018.
So it is reasonable for Ontarians to know how many people are being disconnected for non-payment. Especially considering that unpaid Hydro One bills now total more than $100 million.
Laura Cooke, Hydro One’s senior vice-president of customer and corporate relations, did not think it was reasonable. She refused to give the number to Global News. She told the news outfit she reviewed the numbers herself and found no “appreciable difference” in the year-to-year numbers.
We are supposed to believe her. No appreciable difference in the number of people hurt by rates that have almost doubled.
That’s hiding facts that should not be hidden from citizens. Ms. Cooke, however, simply is taking her cue from the government led by Premier Pinocchio.
Steven LeClair, Ontario’s financial accountability officer, has said the Liberal government is keeping secret financial information on Hydro One and on the health-care system and major infrastructure projects.
LeClair has said the government has refused to give him information on the financial effects of its move to sell 60 per cent of Hydro One. Or, how it came up with an estimate of the sale’s value. His calculations show that selling off part of Hydro One actually will cost Ontario taxpayers money.
He has said his office has to use other data and do its own calculations to determine the financial effects of government policies.
“Are Ontarians in the dark about it?” he told The Globe and Mail. “I’d say yes. What happens is, the government doesn’t reveal its underlying assumptions and forecasts used in the projections, so it leaves us having to create our own things because we’re not exactly sure where the government has got its information from.”
He also says that Ontario does not release fiscal information that would help us all determine if budget forecasts are accurate or pumped up.
The reason the government is withholding information from Mr. LeClair and its citizens has to be obvious: Ontario’s financial situation is much more dire than any of us suspect. The government has promised to balance the provincial budget by fiscal 2017-18. It looks like the only way they will be able to do that is by sleight of hand, which includes hiding facts and spinning out whoppers.
Meanwhile, we know from the Ontario Energy Board that the $105,583,215 in arrears that Hydro One was trying to collect in 2015 was owed by 225,952 customers. That is 1,750 customers more than in 2014.
That still does not tell us how many households have been disconnected because of arrears. My guess is that it is an “appreciable” number.
Just as important; what is the number of people who have cut back on groceries and other life necessities just to pay those outrageous electricity bills?