Timmins media grilled Premier Kathleen Wynne on high electricity and gasoline prices in Northern Ontario.
The media question period occurred right after the Premier’s 30-minute address to meeting of the Federation of Northern Ontario Mayors on Thursday morning.
The very first question from Eastlink TV went straight for the jugular.
“Northerners are very frustrated with and even angry about high energy costs – why should northerners suck up the high electricity costs?” the Eastlink reporter asked.
“We have acknowledged a need for helping the north with their energy costs,” replied Premier Wynne. “That is why we have put in place the Northern Industrial Energy Program and the northern rates supplements for residences.”
“We also put in place the Ontario Energy Support Program for people on low incomes,” she added.
Premier Wynne distanced herself from the policies of her predecessor Dalton McGuinty.
“When we came into power we made a lot of investments in infrastructure in Ontario, “Wynne explained. “There is a cost associated with and now we are working towards taking the cost out of the energy system.”
“This morning I talked about the changes made to the way Hydro One is managed,” she added. “Hydro One needs to be run better and needs to assure people across Ontario they are getting reliable low cost service.”
“Keep in mind that it’s is the Ontario Energy Board sets those prices,” she said.
Earlier in the morning, Premier Wynne explained her government’s cap and trade system of carbon emission reductions along with California and Quebec would lead to lower electricity prices across Ontario.
“The cap and trade system means that some costs will rise modestly, but other costs like electricity will not because Ontario’s electricity sector now emits almost no pollution and cap and trade system rewards that,” Wynne told the FONOM delegates.”
Second question tossed to the Premier had to do with high gasoline prices.
“There is a move to ask your government to regulate gasoline prices across Ontario,” she was asked. “Will you regulate gasoline prices?”
“No we won’t be contemplating regulating gasoline prices,” was the direct and simple answer given by Premier Wynne. “Where that has been implemented it has not had a good track record.”
“We are aware of the pocket book challenges that people are struggling with not only in Northern Ontario but across the province,” she said.
“We have introduced free tuition for low income families to help them face their financial challenges,” she further explained.
“What does this have to do with regulating the price of gasoline?" asked media.
“It has to do with the cost that people have to bear everywhere,” Wynne stated. “It has to go with how far people’s pay cheques go and it has to do with quality of life people have.”
“But we don’t have a plan to regulate gasoline prices,” Wynne stated.
A follow up question asked Premier Wynne about research by Timmins Mayor Steve Black and Councillor Andre Grzela.
“Research by Mayor Steve Black and Councillor Grzela show that there is no rhyme of reason for how gasoline prices trend,” the reporter noted. “In some cases Windsor has the lowest price in Ontario and the following week it has the highest. Higher than even North Bay – transportation costs which has always been the rationale for why prices are higher in the North doesn’t seem to apply. “
“How do you explain this and what do you plan to do about it?” he asked.
“Gasoline prices are a lot lower today than when I took office,“ Wynne replied. “The market forces that have done that.”
“About why there seems to be no logic behind gasoline pricing trends...you will have to talk to the petroleum distributors,” Wynne said.
The Timmins Daily Press quizzed the Premier about the cutbacks to Ontario Northland bus services.
Wynne said she put a stop to the divestiture of ONTC as soon as she was elected Premier as it has a vital role to the transportation
“I believe also ONTC has just started up a new route from Sudbury to Ottawa,” she said.
“We need to invest in renewing rail across the North and not only the ONTC that we work across the North,” she added. The ONTC is only an northeastern entity.”