Premier

Local horse farmer meets with Ontario premier over hydro rates

 

By Jonathan Martin

A local horse farmer’s meeting with Premier Kathleen Wynne has spurred discussions about Ontario’s hydro rates.

After posting an open letter to Wynne on her Facebook page, Libby Keenan’s criticisms of Ontarians’ rising electricity costs were shared (at the time of writing) almost 22,000 times. The post earned her an invitation to Queen’s Park, where she got a chance to voice her concerns in-person.

“It was a frank and productive conversation,” Wynne posted on her own Facebook page, along with a photo of the meeting. “An essential part of my job is listening to the people of Ontario and taking action to make changes based on your experiences.”

Keenan said she feels she has set a precedent and started the conversation, but it’s up to Ontarians to keep it going.

She said she believes that once the cogs and gears of governmental processes have started rolling along, they’re very hard to stop. Each concession, she thinks, is likely to be hard-won.

Amherstburg resident Libby Keenan (right) chats with Premier Kathleen Wynne last Wednesday in Queen’s Park. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Premier)

Amherstburg resident Libby Keenan (right) chats with Premier Kathleen Wynne last Wednesday in Queen’s Park. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Premier)

“One of the things I noticed when I went to Queen’s Park was the ponderously slow pace of the place,” she said. “They, too, are simply working 9-5 office jobs, caught in the inertia of the whole, monolithic thing. I don’t think we can demonize Premier Kathleen Wynne.”

Following the meeting, Wynne promised that Ontarians would see additional relief before the Spring budget. As of Jan. 1, the government brought in an eight per cent rebate on hydro bills to make up for the provincial portion of HST.

“As I said to Libby, we are going to take concrete action in the coming months to lower the cost of hydro in Ontario,” Wynne wrote. “And to address and keep her apprised of other issues she raised as well.”

In addition to Ontario’s hydro prices, Keenan criticized the privatization of Hydro One and the P3 (Public-Private Partnership) model of infrastructure development adopted by the Canadian government.

Wynne plans to sell 60 per cent of Hydro One to help fund infrastructure expansion and pay down debt. To date, 30 per cent has been sold off.

The P3 model sees the public sector partnered with the private sector in order to develop infrastructure. In theory, it results in fewer missed deadlines and fewer surprise costs, though critics argue that it may be less effective than advertised and result in higher costs overall.

“The bottom line here,” Keenan said. “Is that we need to reclaim our ownership of Ontario rather than sell it off to private corporations. Ontario changed right under our noses and we weren’t paying close enough attention to see it.”

Keenan said she doesn’t see herself as a political activist. She invites people to continue on with their discussions in the comments section of her Facebook page, but it’s up to them to take action if they come across a government initiative with which they are unhappy.

She said she would much rather simply return to her horses.

Local woman’s online message leads to a meeting with Premier

 

By Ron Giofu

 

When Libby Keenan received her hydro bill earlier this month, the number shocked her.

When she read a Financial Post article about the salaries of top executives at Hydro One, it shocked her even more.

That is when she took her views to Facebook and the response snowballed from there.

Keenan, who has seen her energy bills rise from $180 to $581 in a span of two years, vented on the social media website in a sharply-worded post directed at Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Keenan’s letter told Wynne that “the dream is dying” and that she is in financial peril due to her hydro bills and the taxation she has to pay.

“I work hard, seven days a week actually, I live exceptionally frugally, I have spent 30 years paying off a mortgage on a beautiful farm I can barely afford to keep. My heating and hydro costs are much higher cost per month than my mortgage was. The very minute I feel I may be ever so slightly gaining ground you slap on another tax, fee, toll, charge, requirement or expense! I drive a 17-year-old truck and now I spend more every year to get my new sticker, plus emissions test. I have found more ways to squeeze a loonie than you’ll ever need to!” the letter, in part, states.

“The letter was mainly what I had to say,” said Keenan.

Keenan, who trains horseback riders on her Concession 5 North farm, told the River Town Times last Thursday morning that she was angered by the Financial Post article on salaries, as 60,000 Ontarians have been disconnected from services. She emphasized she is not in it for the money, but she wants to keep doing what she does out of a passion for it.

“Money is not the issue, I love what I do,” she said.

Many of her horses were donated and have been turned into dressage champions and “I’m very happy with it all.” However, what used to be manageable bills have not been as manageable in recent times and she is hoping for relief. Keenan notes that there is no heavy machinery at her farm and whatever lights her barn uses are LED lights.

“There’s not some big power drain here,” she said.

Keenan, who went to the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal as a groomer and exercise trainer, moved to this area in 1989 from Brampton. Her goal was to make riding available for children and said she has done that willingly, as it is a love for her.

“This is what I’ve wanted to do since I was four,” said Keenan, who is now 64-years-old.

Her farm is her best asset as she said it was valued at $361,000 and calls it her RRSP, but if she loses it to property taxes she will be forced to turn elsewhere.

Keenan said she grew up as a proud Ontarian and would often feel bad for people who grew up in other parts of the world but told Wynne in her post that “enough is enough” and feels she has been “grossly misled.”

“You have broken my Ontario and I mourn for her,” Keenan said in her Facebook post.

Libby Keenan’s hydro costs and other expenses led her to writing a Facebook post about Kathleen Wynne that has since gone viral.

Libby Keenan’s hydro costs and other expenses led her to writing a Facebook post about Kathleen Wynne that has since gone viral.

The local horse farmer believes people are “picking my pockets every five minutes” and questions her financial future.

“Now, I’m going to be joining the ranks of the nearly impoverished,” said Keenan. “I feel my country has let me down. I feel my province has let me down. I feel I am going to fall through the cracks.”

But before she went through those cracks, Keenan vowed to take others with her. Her post generated over 21,000 shares and 11,000 likes and drew comments from not just Ontarians, but people from Alberta, British Columbia, California, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Some messages are from people who have had to turn off their heat, including a 69-year-old woman from Ontario.

“I know it’s a global issue,” she said.

Believing politicians “seem very out of touch,” Keenan said she has no money for any major improvements to her home (which she describes as “a pile of sticks”) nor is she worried about getting rich. She just wants to keep doing what she does and keep working with riders and horses.

Keenan said the support she has received locally has been tremendous.

Keenan posted Friday evening she has received a call from Wynne and was working to set up a face-to-face meeting with the premier.

She wrote: “My goal of the meeting is to convey the very grave conditions faced by thousands of Ontarians on several issues and expect concrete answers on the record as to what will be done about these issues. I will be accompanied by a few trusted companions and Ms. Wynne will be accompanied by a few of the ministers who will be able to help her implement any agreements reached in the meeting. Thank you all for your continued support. I will do my very best to get us some relief on our most pressing problems.”

Efforts were made electronically to try and gain comment from Wynne or a representative from either the Premier’s Office or her constituency office Friday but nothing has been returned as of press time.