Amherstburg horse farmer plans to march in Toronto to keep Hydro One public

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

First, Libby Keenan got a meeting with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne about hydro rates.

Now, Keenan is looking to head back to Toronto as the organizer of a march to try and keep Hydro One public.

Keenan said the march is tentatively scheduled for April 8 with current plans calling for it to start at Hydro One headquarters and eventually end with a rally at Queen’s Park. The Amherstburg horse farmer said she is gaining support and interest from unions like CUPE and OPSEU and other groups interested in keeping the utility in public hands.

“Basically, everyone wants to block the privatization of Hydro One,” said Keenan.

Fearing there will be little say for consumers if the utility is no longer public, she is hopeful that there will be a reversal of the plans to privatize the utility.

In private hands, Hydro One will be “a total profit-making organization and we are going to fall by the wayside,” she believes.

Libby Keenan gives one of her horses a treat March 1. Keenan is organizing a march in Toronto for early April to object to the sale of Hydro One.

Libby Keenan gives one of her horses a treat March 1. Keenan is organizing a march in Toronto for early April to object to the sale of Hydro One.

Getting some of the anti-privatization groups together despite some differences between them is an accomplishment in itself, with Keenan calling herself “a clearing house” for the groups. She noted they all have the common goal of keeping Hydro One public.

“For the cause, everyone is uniting which is kind of special,” said Keenan.

As many as 1,000 people may attend the #KeepOurPower march with Keenan stating Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky has offered her executive assistant in Queen’s Park to help with the paperwork in getting it off the ground.

Keenan met with Wynne Jan. 18 in Toronto, a meeting that saw Wynne questioned over salaries of hydro executives and rates. Keenan said the conversation was steered away from the selling of Hydro One and Keenan now believes, after speaking with other Liberal officials, that they believe it’s a done deal.

“I just want reasonable bills,” said Keenan. “I think our chances are better for that if (Hydro One) remains public.”

All of Ontario has to be considered when making such decisions, she added, and said people outside of the GTA have to “make a fuss” and oppose such privatization.

“I’m not looking for a free ride,” she said, “but I believe the government has to look at every demographic.”

The meeting with Wynne went well, she said, but the idea for the rally started after that.

“I didn’t dislike her,” said Keenan. “She was very pleasant. She met with me for an hour-and-a-half.”

Keenan said she can’t just walk away from people who contact her with similar concerns over hydro rates that she has.

“People are writing me every day,” she said. “I will stick with it until something finally happens.”

Hydro rates need to become more reasonable as people are choosing whether to pay rent or invest into RRSP’s or pay their hydro bills.

“It’s not just a few whiny farmers,” said Keenan. “It’s a lot of people from every avenue of life. They are just fed up.”

Keenan was happy with the 25 per cent reduction in bills but hopes Ontarians aren’t hit in other areas. She said it is a start but added on her Facebook page that she “will continue fight for the larger ramifications of the whole Hydro One fiasco!”

The reduction is another 17 per cent on top of the eight per cent already announced earlier this year.

Wynne issued a statement on what the Ontario government is calling the “Fair Hydro Plan.” In the statement, released Thursday, Wynne stated “electricity is not a frill – it’s an essential part of our daily lives. And everywhere I go, I hear from people worried about the price they are asked to pay for hydro and the impact it has on their household budgets. It’s not just some people, and it’s not just in some places. It’s everyone and in every corner of the province. In the north and the south. In rural Ontario and downtown Toronto. For the past couple of months I’ve made a point of connecting with people who have written to me about this issue. I’ve called them up or gone to visit. I’ve sat and talked and listened.”

Wynne continued: “Last September, I committed to reduce electricity bills by eight per cent across the board, equivalent to the provincial portion of HST. But it hasn’t been enough. It’s made too small a dent. For that reason, we are taking further action. We are tripling the size of the cut we’re making to people’s hydro bills from eight per cent to an average of 25 per cent. Electricity rates in Ontario will come down significantly, they’re going to stay down and everyone will benefit.”

Wynne said once bills are reduced 25 per cent, the government will hold them there with rates rising only with inflation – roughly two per cent – for at least four years.

“Let me also address the elephant in the room — didn’t it take me too long to come to grips with this? Why am I only acting now? Those are fair questions. It has taken a long time. But it’s not as if I’ve been unaware of the challenge. I have seen the rising rates. My family and I get a bill like anyone else. And we did take action — with targeted relief, the eight per cent cut, the Hydro-Québec deal. These were worthwhile initiatives. But, ultimately they were too narrow in scope — too limited when the kind of fix required was more fundamental,” Wynne’s statement also read. “Beginning last year, I started to ask tougher questions about how we got to this point. And what could be done. For decades, bad choices have been made. Those governments, including ours, who for decades pushed off the price of reinvesting in the system? That was a mistake. Putting too much of the burden on a single generation of ratepayers? That was a mistake. And asking hydro users alone to pay for policies that ought to be paid for by all taxpayers? That was a mistake too. The policy was wrong. That made the pocketbook pressures impossible. And as Premier, I have an obligation to set the policy right. To put in place a fix that will work. And a fix that will last.

Bringing down rates by 25 per cent and fixing the system’s structure – that’s the approach that I believe in. I think it’s better for Ontario. And I know it’s fairer on families.”

For further information on the march, Keenan said people can follow her Facebook page or e-mail her at sunhall72@gmail.com.

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