NAFTA challenges, energy board rulings and the sell-off of AECL: is Ontario’s energy plan unravelling?
One of George Smitherman’s crowning achievements in provincial politics was the establishment of the Green Energy Act, a cornerstone in the Liberal government’s attempt to reshape (and, to a large extent, rebuild) Ontario’s electricity sector after the difficulties that plagued the Mike Harris and Ernie Eves years. But a few different speed bumps have appeared on the road to a green economy. First of all, Smitherman’s act has increasingly become a target for conservatives like Tim Hudak. Then, this week, Toronto Hydro’s conservation plans got scuppered by the Ontario Energy Board. Now, a Texan oil billionaire is suing the government—but not for the reasons you think.
Ontario’s controversial green energy policy is facing a new assault as famed oilman tycoon T. Boone Pickens has launched a $775-million NAFTA challenge alleging the government has discriminated against his privately owned wind energy company.
With the Dallas-based Mesa Power Group’s action, the Liberal government is now fighting multi-front battles over its Green Energy Act and the feed-in tariff that pays renewable energy companies premium prices for electricity – so long as they procure a percentage of the goods and services in the province.
It’s a victory of sorts for environmentalists when the headline is “Oil baron sues province for not buying his clean wind energy,” but it’s probably not something the Dalton McGuinty government wanted to hear in the long run-up to Election Day (that’s October 6). Add all this to the uncertainty over Ottawa’s sale of AECL—the company that makes the nuclear reactors Ontario was planning to buy—and it’s starting to look more and more like the wheels are coming off of Ontario’s carbon emissions–free bus.