MPP Randy Hillier holds a sample of the hundreds of letters and Hydro One bills he plans to personally deliver to Premier Kathleen Wynne at Queen’s Park. Photo credit: Matthew Behrens.

Hillier takes hydro complaints directly to premier

Matthew Behrens
editorial@pdgmedia.ca

As part of his ongoing battle against astronomically high Hydro One rates in rural Ontario, Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox & Addington MPP Randy Hillier is seeking letters of concern and complaint from his constituents, which he pledges to personally deliver to Premier Kathleen Wynne.

The idea for area residents to photocopy their Hydro One bills and outline their individual stories over skyrocketing costs came up during a telephone town hall Hillier held with over 3,000 people earlier this spring.

“Everyone has their own story,” says the outspoken MPP. “When the cost of a necessity gets to such a degree that it prevents you from purchasing other necessities, we’ve got ourselves a problem, and that’s what many of these people have to do: make choices we ought not to have to make in a country like Canada.” Hillier says some residents have to choose between adequately heating their homes and eating properly.

As rural Ontarians have faced monthly hydro bills of up to $500 – with one notorious case of an unoccupied farmhouse receiving a $25,000 bill – Hillier says advocacy campaigns like his have helped the premier realize the scale of the problem.

Indeed, last fall, Wynne took personal responsibility in a public talk, saying “It was my mistake. And I’m going to do my best to fix it.”

Hillier’s office has received over 500 letters and bills, and he’s taken some of the written submissions into daily question period at Queen’s Park. He says that activism in the form of public events, demonstrations, petitions, and direct lobbying have been crucial to some of the changes now occurring, from the ombudsman investigating poor customer service and billing errors to Wynne’s recently announced cut in Hydro One rates. But Hillier says Wynne’s short-term solutions fail to address what he views as the bigger problem.

“At the end of the day, it’s pretty simple,” Hillier believes. “We have a diminishing demand for electricity in our province. Every year we build more and more expensive capacity. So those two things on their own tell you there’s a problem. You throw in the third element of the rising cost to provide the operations and overhead and administration. We’re trying to reduce the marketplace while increasing our costs of production. Any other business would be bankrupt. That’s not a partisan statement, it’s just a basic business model, and this one is flawed.”  

While historically low polling numbers are certainly a concern for Wynne, Hillier believes the Hydro One debacle has been “an eye-opener for her, and I want her eyes to be opened further. It’s only awareness that brings resolution to problems.” With an election scheduled for 2018 Hillier says, “I don’t know what other muck-ups we’re going to see from this government between now and then,” but he believes continued pressure in the form of initiatives like the letter campaign will remain crucial.

Recalling a lesson he learned from his days with the Lanark Landowners Association, Hillier says “getting people involved truly is the only way to make a difference and be influential in the making of public policy. Some people have infinite wealth to wield influence, but for most people, that’s not in the cards.”

This article first appeared in the May issue of Hometown News.

read more

HomeTown News

New Catholic elementary school for Smiths Falls

Chris Must editorial@pdgmedia.ca Students currently attending St. Francis de Sales and St. James the Greater Catholic elementary schools will soon be going to a brand new school. At a meeting of Smiths Falls town council’s Committee of the Whole May 23, councillors were informed of the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario’s plans to […]

Read more

Carleton Place council suspends mayor’s income for integrity breach

Matthew Behrens editorial@pdgmedia.ca Two weeks after a raucous town hall meeting in which councillors and residents alike called on embattled Mayor Louis Antonakos to resign over the damning findings of an integrity commissioner’s report, members of council decided on May 23 to penalize the mayor with a 90-day suspension of income. In addition, members of […]

Read more

OPP officer arrested for sexual assault

Submitted editorial@pdgmedia.ca On Friday May 19 an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer from Eastern Ontario was arrested as a result of an ongoing domestic investigation conducted by the OPP Professional Standards Bureau (PSB). The investigation stems from incidents that are alleged to have occurred while the officer was off duty. As a result a 39-year-old, […]

Read more

Moose commuter train battles federal government railroading

Matthew Behrens editorial@pdgmedia.ca Smiths Falls residents hoping to enjoy commuter rail service into Ottawa this year will have to wait a while longer as Moose, the private company behind the proposal for a 400 kilometre interprovincial route, battles a federal government that seems uninterested in working with the project. As Canada plans its 150th anniversary, […]

Read more

Stewart Park Festival announces 2017 performer line-up

Submitted editorial@pdgmedia.ca  The Stewart Park Festival has released its 2017 performer line-up and the talent set to hit the stage this summer is a solid mix that’ll once again draw thousands to the park. The three-day festival, held July 14-16, will showcase performers from across Canada including long-time-loved, Juno-award winners Sue Foley and Valdy as […]

Read more