David Orchard
Media Coverage
  Contacts Schedule What You Can Do ! Home Français

The Packet and Times (Orillia, Ontario), November 12, 2002

Hydro woes are talk of meeting

by Jim Purnell

Local News - The sale of Ontario’s power lines and power plants will be more shocking to consumers than the recent deregulation of the electricity market.

That’s the message delivered by passionate opponents of the privatization of hydro, led by free trade critic David Orchard, as they addressed 300 people packed into the ODAS Park hall on Monday night.

“The cap on electricity rates announced today doesn’t deal with the impact of selling off the assets. The bigger issue is if assets are sold off, then control is lost completely due to free trade,” warned Orchard, who was runner-up to Joe Clark in the 1998 Progressive Conservative federal leadership race.

The Saskatchewan farmer and prolific writer said once Hydro One’s power lines and Ontario Power Generation power plants are sold to private corporations, the financial penalties under the North American Free Trade (NAFTA) agreement would be too prohibitive to ever get the utilities back.

“We have to keep those resources in Ontario citizens’ hands so you can have cheap power on a long-term basis. The sell off is the root of the problem and has to be stopped,” said Orchard, who is seriously considering taking another run at the Conservative leadership.

And the plan to sell those assets is in the works, warned a Severn Township resident during an impassioned question-and-answer session after Orchard’s talk.

“The Ontario government’s plan is to reduce what you own which is the generating capacity—the power dams, the turbines, the nuclear and coal fired plants,” said an incensed John Niddery.

“You own about 80 per cent and the government wants to reduce that to 35 per cent. They want to sell off your children’s legacy,” the former Severn Township councillor warned the audience.

And Orillia Power Corporation worker Maurice McMillan told the audience how Ernie Eves ignored him when he asked if the future premier understood the implications of NAFTA when the pair met earlier this year when Eves made a local campaign stop during the Ontario Progressive Conservative party leadership race.

An Ontario Electricity Coalition spokesperson also warned the crowd about selling off public assets.

“The government should not sell Hydro One to finance the rebates and rate caps,” Paul Kahnert said.

McMillan, Kahnert and Orchard all told the audience of the need to maintain pressure of the government to keep power in the public’s hands.

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, Ontario is obligated to supply power to U.S. customers even if it means blacking out customers this side of the border, Orchard maintains.

“Even if we face a shortage of any form of energy we must continue to deliver across the border in the same proportion as we have in the three previous years,” says Orchard, a fierce critic of the trade agreement.

“I’m not aware of a clause like this in any other trade agreement.”

And the agreement forbids Canada to sell energy or any good to the U.S. at higher costs than it sells to its own citizens, Orchard adds.

When Mexico joined the continental trading agreement in 1994 they did not sign a similar clause involving energy, said Orchard.

“They kept the oil and gas sector out of NAFTA.”

A plan to privatize the publicly owned power utility in Saskatchewan met with massive opposition, said Orchard.

Back Top