Letter - A raucous return to the Ontario Legislature

by MPP Toby Barrett - The Regional

Sept. 22, 2010

The return to the Legislature now gives MPPs a forum to focus on the discontent of this summer past. And the debate has been raucous!

The focus - Mr. McGuinty's double-shot to the wallet of the HST and the eco tax on the same day.

On July 1, Mr. McGuinty brought in the HST on just about everything - gasoline, electricity, natural gas, haircuts, home renovation and repairs, mutual fund fees, estate planning and snow removal. And, on the same day, he levied an eco tax on just about everything else. A recent Stats Canada report indicates that the HST has proven more onerous than originally predicated. Consumer prices in Ontario rose 2.9 per cent in July -- the largest year-over-year hike among the provinces. The HST accounted for about 1.3 per cent of that increase, much higher than the 0.7 per cent predicted.

Few will forget the shock to discover the HST wasn't the only tax grab cooking on Canada Day. The list of over 9,000 items to be stuck with a new eco tax included new products and household items from single use batteries, fire extinguishers, detergent, smoke alarms, and even $3.99 added to each bag of concrete mix.

Within two short weeks, then Environment Minister Gerretsen went from 'hide and sneak' to 'duck and run' - first sticking us with thousands of extra eco fees under the cover of the HST, then admitting failure in hopes of silencing a taxed-off public.  And there is concern the moratorium has given Mr. McGuinty 90 days to find other avenues to sneak in the eco tax. In addition to the HST and the eco tax, there were other government-inspired cost of living increases for families this summer.

During Question Period, both Opposition parties focussed on the rapid rise of electricity prices - due in large part to the McGuinty green energy scheme. Government's energy policies will cost Ontario ratepayers $7.7 billion over the next five years. As a result, the average family's monthly bills will move up to 43 percent by 2015. This will add another $732 a year to a family's energy bill.

Not only are the electricity hikes due to the HST, rate increases, and the Green Energy Act, but also because of the advent of smart meters.

According to Hydro One, the installed cost per smart meter is $700.54, which, of course, is tacked on to bills for you and I to pay. So far, the smart meter experiment has proven expensive, faulty and with no incentive for families to conserve energy. Unless someone is prepared to always do their laundry at 2 a.m., smart meters are proving to be little more than "tax machines".

I join Opposition Leader Hudak in requesting an immediate freeze on the installation of smart meters until these problems can be fixed. As well, families should be allowed to choose whether they want to use a smart meter or not.

The first week of the Legislature also highlighted the widespread criticism of a so-called secret law for G20 police powers, the damaging Ombudsman's report about Ontario's local health networks, the cut in rates for solar energy projects that angered farmers, and the flip-flops on mixed martial arts and on-line gambling.

Over the coming months at Queens Park I look forward to working with my caucus colleagues to fight the intrusions from a government that can't stop reaching into people's pockets.