CORNWALL – With the future of Hydro One and its privatization making headlines in the recent provincial budget, the leaders of the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats say they would respect Cornwall Electric’s relationship with Hydro Quebec.
Both leaders were speaking to 150 delegates at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce AGM at Nav Center in Cornwall Friday and electricity dominated discussion.
Right now, the Seaway City appears to be a safe haven for business from the staggering increases in electricity rates on the Hydro One network in Ontario. On this day (Friday), new rate increases for Hydro One customers took effect.
Cornwall Electric gets its power from Hydro Quebec on a long term deal that runs out December, 2019 – a year after the next provincial election.
PC Interim Leader Jim Wilson and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath both say they would respect the relationship between the utility and its Quebec counterpart, dismissing suggestions the utility may be forced to join the Ontario electrical grid.
“Absolutely,” exclaimed Wilson, suggesting the PC’s put out a white paper last year calling for the province to buy hydro from Quebec.
“We have a period coming up (2017-2028) where much of our nuclear will be shut down and refurbished. During that period we would like to buy cheap power from Quebec,” Wilson told Cornwall Newswatch.
He even suggested that Ontario should expand its relationship with Quebec for buying power. “Hydro Quebec has attractive prices and if we could get a reasonable deal with them that’s the direction we should be going,” Wilson said.
MPP Jim McDonell added that Cornwall Electric may not be protected if the Liberals win in 2018. “They’re desperate for money. Every opportunity they’re taking is more and more money – any of your (Ontario) rates are 143 per cent higher than the equivalent areas in the United States and they’re going up higher, theirs (in the U.S.) are going down,” he said.
While respecting the relationship, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is fearful Cornwall Electric’s parent company, Fortis Inc., would be subject to a takeover once Hydro One becomes privatized under the Liberal’s plan.
“What you can be guaranteed of, for sure, is if this privatization (of Hydro One) happens that deal (between Cornwall Electric and Hydro Quebec) will not be continued,” Horwath stated.
“Once Hydro One becomes a privatized company they will only be looking to gobble up more opportunities for revenue so Cornwall will be at risk if Hydro One is privatized, I can guarantee that,” she said.
“It’s going to have nothing to do with whether it’s good for Cornwall…ratepayers…businesses or people. It’s all about how they’re going to get return on investment of the shareholders,” Horwath said.
Horwath says the business community should be marketing its electricity rates strongly. “When the rest of the province is reeling from manufacturers picking up and moving off to other jurisdictions…this should be a mecca in Ontario for investment.”