Hydro ruling not end of issue

A ruling by a Superior Court judge on Friday stating the province doesn’t have the authority to privatize Hydro One may have been the right one, but it doesn’t mean the issue won’t come again in the future, the CEO of the Fort Frances Power Corp. said yesterday.
“I think the government was hasty in the whole process,” remarked Mark McCaig. “The judge pointed out that in Section 48 of Bill 35 [the Electricity Act], they are prevented from selling power in the first place.
“I hope they’re never given the mandate to sell hydro. But I’m pretty sure they’ll try and push it through some way,” he added.
“If they do, there should be some public consultation. It’s an important issue. It’s your and my hydro system, for which we’re still paying some debt charges,” McCaig noted.
Al Bedard, recording secretary for Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Local #92 here, said his union is “delighted” with Justice Arthur Gans’ decision, but added that doesn’t mean they’ll stop their campaign against privatizing hydro.
“We realize it will be appealed so, right now, we’re working on a draft to be sent to our municipal government. The whole idea is to get them to establish a bylaw which says, ‘No. We’re not in favour of privatization,” he remarked.
Bedard noted unions here and across Ontario have been holding meetings to inform members about the danger of privatization for several months.
“In the event it’s privatized, there’s a number of concerns. With NAFTA, power goes to the highest bidder, which means higher prices for consumers,” he warned, adding this would be devastating for low-income families.
And higher powers costs for employers likely would result in jobs cut, Bedard added.
Bedard said it also could result in people having to regulate their power usage, forcing them to have to wait until after peak hours to do laundry, for instance.
Meanwhile, with the hydro market still slated to open May 1, McCaig wanted to clarify that having an open market is not the same issue as hydro privatization.
“The change has to do with the commodity portion of your bill—the actual cost of the power,” he noted. “With the open market, the consumer can choose to go along with a private retailer and we’ll still serve as distributor.
“Or the consumer can choose to do nothing, at which time the local power company—us—provides them with power at spot market prices.”
But McCaig stressed for the time being, there are no private power retailers operating locally.
“Direct Energy was in the area late last summer and in the fall. At that time, they were going to submit data to us if they found any interest here—it’s called ‘scrubbing,’” he explained.
But since Direct Energy failed to submit any data to the FFPC, the company will not be active as of May 1. “But they said they would be sometime in the future,” McCaig said.
And the FFPC will not be providing power to anyone beyond the boundaries it now operates as it is a licensed distribution company, not a licensed electricity retailer.
The FFPC has been preparing for the open market for the past two years, changing its billing services and dealing with regulations dictated by the Ontario Energy Board.
Anyone with questions about signing up with a power provider other than the FFPC should contact McCaig at 274-9291 or via e-mail at ffpc@ff.lakeheadu.ca