Jack Gibbons speaking notes on the 2011 Ontario election – Sept. 8, 2011

Thanks for coming here tonight to discuss how we can use the provincial election to help move Ontario towards a renewable electricity future.

The OCAA has two goals. First, to achieve a coal phase-out. Second, to move Ontario towards a 100% renewable electricity grid by 2030.

The good news is that thanks to Premier McGuinty’s leadership we can achieve a virtually complete coal phase-out now. However, to achieve our second goal, a renewable electricity grid by 2030, we must stop new investments in nuclear power.

Before we discuss our election strategy, I would like to review the energy platforms of the four major political parties.

Let’s begin with the Liberals and the Tories. Their positions on coal and nuclear are identical. They are both committed to a coal phase-out by 2014. And they are both committed to a major re-investment in nuclear power. Both the Liberals and the Tories want nuclear to provide us with 50% of our electricity for the next 60 years. This doesn’t make sense since there are lower cost, lower risk and cleaner options to meet our electricity needs.

Where the Liberals and the Tories differ is on the Green Energy Act. At the present Ontario gets approximately 25% of its electricity from renewable sources. The goal of the Green Energy Act is to raise this percentage to 40% by 2030. The Tories have three major criticisms of the Green Energy Act. First, they say that its feed-in-tariff program pays too high a price for green electricity. Second, they believe that municipalities should have a say with respect to whether wind mills should be located in their communities. The GEA does not permit this. Third, the Tories have promised to cancel the Samsung deal which is designed to help create a green manufacturing industry in Ontario. According to the Tories, it is a sweetheart deal which is needlessly raising electricity rates.

Unlike the other parties, the Tories have not said anything about energy efficiency. Furthermore their opposition to the HST on energy and smart meters will reduce consumers’ incentive to conserve energy.

In addition, the Tories are proposing to shift the nuclear debt retirement charge from electricity consumers to taxpayers. This will further reduce the incentive for consumers to use electricity wisely.

Reducing consumers incentive to save energy does not make sense since energy conservation and efficiency is the only sustainable option to lower energy bills.

Let’s now turn to the NDP. First, their position on the coal phase-out is excellent. They are committed to putting our dirty coal plants on standby reserve right now and only operating them if they are absolutely necessary to keep the lights on. While we no longer need our dirty coal plants to keep the lights on in Ontario, OPG is continuing to operate them to export power to the U.S.A.

The NDP’s policy is great because it will lead to a virtually complete coal phase-out right now. That is more than 3 years ahead of Dalton’s and Tim’s schedule.

While we no longer need our dirty coal plants to keep the lights on in Ontario, OPG is continuing to operate them to export power to the U.S.A.

The NDP is also opposed to new nuclear power projects. So the NDP is proposing to meet our electricity needs by a combination of energy conservation and efficiency, Made-in-Ontario renewable and natural gas-fired combined heat and power plants. The NDP will also consider importing water power from Quebec to meet our electricity needs.

Unfortunately, the NDP would remove the HST from electricity, home heating oil and natural gas and gasoline. The NDP is also proposing to re-create the old, publicly-owned Ontario Hydro and give it a virtual monopoly on the generation and transmission of electricity. This does not make sense since the old Ontario Hydro was pro-coal, pro-nuclear and dysfunctional. Every single one of its nuclear projects was late and massively over budget.

Let’s now turn to the Green Party. Their energy policies are identical to those of the OCAA. They want to phase out coal and nuclear and move Ontario towards a 100% renewable electricity grid.

The Green Party is the only major political party that is not advocating removing the HST from energy.

Their preferred option to meet our energy needs is energy conservation and efficiency. They also support Made-in-Ontario renewable energy and water power imports from Quebec and small-scale, natural gas-fired combined heat and power plants.

So if the NDP or the Green Party win the election, we will quickly move towards a renewable electricity future. But there is no guarantee that the NDP or the Greens will win the election.

I would now like to turn to our strategy to ensure that Ontario moves towards a 100% renewable electricity grid even if Dalton McGuinty or Tim Hudak win the election. But before I do so are there any questions about the energy platforms of the political parties?

As I have already noted, both the Liberals and the Tories want nuclear to continue to supply us with 50% of our electricity needs for the next 60 years.

So how can we ensure that we will move to a 100% renewable grid by 2030 even if Dalton McGuinty or Tim Hudak win the election?

To answer this question, we must ask how has the nuclear industry persuaded the Government of Ontario to approve nuclear power projects in the past? The answer is very simple.

The nuclear industry has repeatedly low-balled their cost estimates and claimed that nuclear power is the lowest cost option to keep our lights on. In fact, in the 1950s they claimed that nuclear would be too cheap to meter. But they never keep their promises. Every nuclear project in Ontario’s history has gone massively over budget and the cost overruns have been paid for by you and me – Ontario’s electricity consumers and taxpayers.

On the other hand, renewable and natural gas-fired power companies are not allowed to pass their cost overruns on to you and me. To date the Government of Ontario has signed more than 1,000 contracts with solar, wind, water, bio-energy and natural gas-fired electricity suppliers. None of these suppliers are allowed to pass their cost overruns onto Ontario’s electricity consumers and taxpayers. Only nuclear power companies get to stick it to us with their cost overruns. It’s time to end this sweetheart deal.

So here is our strategy to stop nuclear power. Get Dalton McGuinty and Tim Hudak to promise that they will not allow nuclear power companies to pass their cost overruns on to you and me. This will do three things.

First, it will protect us from nuclear cost overruns.

Second, it will force nuclear companies to submit honest price bids that reflect the true costs of nuclear power.

Third, the honest price bids will make it clear to even the stupidest politician that nuclear power is the highest cost option to meet our base-load electricity needs. And as a consequence they will not proceed with the nuclear option.

This is the strategy we successfully used in 2009 to stop McGuinty’s proposal to build two new nuclear reactors at the Darlington Nuclear Station. With the help of our team of volunteers we persuaded the then Minister of Energy, George Smitherman, to tell the nuclear industry they would not be allowed to pass their cost overruns on to consumers. As a result, AECL was forced to submit an honest price bid that reflected the true cost of building new nuclear reactors. But the honest price bid was 3 times higher than expected. As a consequence, Smitherman and McGuinty had a severe case of sticker shock and they cancelled their procurement process for two new nuclear reactors at Darlington.

So in this election we are pursuing the same winning strategy. We have asked Dalton McGuinty and Tim Hudak to promise that they will not allow nuclear companies to pass their cost overruns on to consumers and taxpayers.

The good news is that Dalton McGuinty has agreed to our request. Therefore if McGuinty is re-elected, new nuclear projects will not proceed since when they submit their honest price bids it will be clear that they are the highest cost option to meet our base-load electricity needs. And no Premier will proceed with a nuclear project if it is clear that there are lower cost options to keep the lights on.

Unfortunately, Tim Hudak did not respond to our questionnaire. So to ensure that we move rapidly towards a renewable future even if Tim Hudak becomes Premier we must get him to sign our “Electricity Consumer Protection Pledge” before October 6th. That is, we need to get him to promise that he won’t allow nuclear companies to pass their cost overruns on to you and me. Unfortunately, Tim doesn’t want to sign the Pledge because he doesn’t want to offend the powerful nuclear lobby. Nevertheless, with your help we can persuade Tim to sign the pledge since he is the self-proclaimed champion of Ontario’s hard working families. He is the man who has promised to stand up to the special interest groups and put consumers and taxpayers first. So with your help, we must persuade Mr. Hudak to sign the Pledge to demonstrate the sincerity of his commitment to put consumers and taxpayers first. Not the nuclear special interest lobby.

Now before Angela addresses how we can work together to persuade Tim to sign the pledge, are there any questions about our nuclear cost overruns strategy?

– Send Tim an email, Twitter of Facebook message asking him to sign the Pledge; and ask your friends to do so too.

– Distribute our pamphlet The Billion Dollar Question That Tim Hudak Needs To Answer to your friends, neighbours and co-workers.

– Download our Electricity Consumer Protection Pledge from our home page and ask your PC candidate to sign it and then send it to us.

– Help us distribute a copy of our pamphlet to every home in the Eglinton-Lawrence riding. This is a high profile riding that Rocco Rossi is attempting to win for Tim Hudak. This is also a riding with a lot of green voters. And Rocco Rossi is a very intelligent candidate who likes to adopt bold, leadership positions. In addition, this race will be very competitive. As a result this is a riding where there is a good chance that we can get a high profile PC candidate to sign the Pledge. This will generate a lot of media attention for our campaign and increase the pressure on Tim to sign the Pledge too.

– Join us at all candidates meetings to distribute our pamphlet and ask the PC candidates to sign the Pledge.

– Come with us to Tim Hudak campaign events to ask Mr. Hudak to sign the pledge.