Though the business of electrification appears to be booming across Canada, average taxpayers won’t get to share in the economic benefits – in fact, they’re the ones footing the bill. Pictured is Ontario’s Minister of Energy Todd Smith speaking at Electricity Canada’s recent Regulatory Forum. Photo credit: Twitter/Todd Smith
Recent days have seen announcements from the federal and Ontario governments regarding their so-called electrification agenda, or efforts to replace technologies that use fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas with technologies that use electricity generated by renewable sources.
Last week, the federal government announced the Canada Electricity Advisory Council, whose mission is to advise the government on how to achieve 100 per cent emissions-free electricity by 2035. Ontario also recently announced that its Electrification and Energy Transition Panel, created late in 2022, would be holding a series of consultations over the next couple of months to scope out the province’s plans to promote the use or more electricity.
Although most Canadians are likely blissfully unaware of these developments, they should start to pay attention as they will be affected significantly by the outcome – notably a major increase in their electricity costs. A 30 to 50 per cent increase in hydro bills for both consumers and businesses is not only likely, but may be an underestimate of the impact. Billions of tax dollars will undoubtedly also be spent to subsidize the businesses involved and the many consultants, advisors and other hangers-on to the “green” revolution that make their living from promoting these policies.
The federal Liberal government has consistently announced climate-related policies with little or no mention of their cost, and electrification is no exception. Back in 2019, former Environment Minister McKenna claimed the carbon tax would not exceed $50 a tonne. That was quickly proven to be a lie, as shortly thereafter we learned the Liberals’ plan was to more than triple that amount to $170 a tonne by 2030. Yet the cost of these policies to Canadians is one of the most important factors that people deserve to know.
The Liberals have also consistently refused to publicize research they have done internally that estimates the cost of these policies to Canadians, while touting benefits to the climate that are never realized. Canadians should be highly suspicious of this Liberal government’s past dishonesty and lack of transparency whenever such an announcement is made.
The composition of the federal Council is also problematic. It is composed entirely of various electric utilities and regulatory bodies from across Canada, First Nations groups and a few consultant types who make a very good living from preaching environmental extremism. Although it makes sense to have utilities and regulators involved, there is no excuse to exclude representatives from consumer groups, taxpayers or business groups, the people that will be footing the bill. It is also an indicator of how the government intends to bias the outcome in favour of their unrealistic climate goals with little if any concern of the costs inflicted on average Canadians.
Many objective experts not on the government payroll believe the goals set out by the Liberals are impossible to achieve with current technology within the timeframes predicted. Much of the infrastructure that will be needed to achieve a net-zero grid takes years of planning, let alone the actual construction. Looking at major power projects currently underway, such as Site C in BC or Muskrat Falls in Labrador, the time needed to bring such large projects to production is at least 15 to 20 years, which makes the 2035 target ludicrous. Another serious complication is the massive cost involved for a government already seriously in debt.
The Ontario panel is similarly composed of energy experts and a representative of the Indigenous community, but they are also consulting widely among business and consumer groups. It is yet to be seen how widely the federal group will consult.
One of the most contentious issues facing all governments who are attempting to reduce emissions from the electricity system is what to do with natural gas, which currently is used widely across Canada to generate electricity. For instance, over half of Alberta’s electricity is produced from natural gas. Although natural gas usage does entail emissions, it is nevertheless cleaner than other fossil fuels. As recently as 15 years ago, even the most radical environmentalists were promoting natural gas use as preferable to oil and coal. Now that much of that has been phased out those same activists are now trying to eliminate natural gas, which would be extremely costly and disruptive to the many Canadians who depend on it.
As well, natural gas provides a back-up to the wind and solar power the climate advocates support, despite the fact wind and solar are unreliable and expensive. Eliminating natural gas from electricity generation would subject Canadians to blackouts, brownouts and unreliable power, as has happened in jurisdictions that have been overly zealous in replacing fossil fuel energy sources with wind and solar. Ontario government officials have stated they have no intention of phasing out natural gas, but the pressure to do so will be intense from the environmental lobby.
Ontario and Canada in general already have one of the cleanest electrical grids in the world. Fully 83 per cent of Canada’s electricity generation is from sources that produce no greenhouse gas emissions. Pressing to completely eliminate such emissions, regardless of costs and the impact on average Canadians, appears guided by ideology, not a sensible and balanced assessment of the public interest. Most Canadians remain unaware of this radical agenda and the profound impact it will have on their cost of living. Sadly, when considering the options of electrification or bust, bust is the more likely outcome. And a very expensive bust at that.
She has published numerous articles in journals, magazines & other media on issues such as free trade, finance, entrepreneurship & women business owners. Ms. Swift is a past President of the Empire Club of Canada, a former Director of the CD Howe Institute, the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, SOS Children’s Villages, past President of the International Small Business Congress and current Director of the Fraser Institute. She was cited in 2003 & 2012 as one of the most powerful women in Canada by the Women’s Executive Network & is a recipient of the Queen’s Silver & Gold Jubilee medals.