Ontario demands same support for energy as N.L.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty comments to reporters about 'equal treatment' from Ottawa, during a press conference in Toronto, Monday, April 4, 2011
TORONTO - Ontario voters will not tolerate their tax dollars being used to subsidize lower electricity rates in Newfoundland and Labrador or other provinces, Premier Dalton McGuinty warned Monday.
McGuinty came out swinging at Prime Minister Stephen Harper's pledge of a $4.2-billion loan guarantee for the Lower Churchill hydro project in Newfoundland and Labrador, saying Ontario wants equal treatment from Ottawa.
"Ontarians should understand 40 per cent of the federal government's money come directly from Ontarians," said McGuinty. "So when Prime Minister Harper pledges specific aid to another part of Canada for a specific multibillion-dollar project, 40 per cent of that money is coming from Ontarians."
McGuinty has argued for years that Canada's equalization program doesn't work because Ontario contributes about $6 billion each year but only gets $1 billion in return. The payments are designed to ensure the same level of government services across the country.
"If any federal government is going to give Newfoundlanders special support for an electricity project, Ontarians expect the same level of support," he said. "Ontarians will not stand by and let their tax dollars be used by the federal government to subsidize electricity rates in other parts of the country."
The Liberal premier didn't have a dollar figure for Ontario's energy funding request, but said he would be putting the issue to all the federal leaders during the election campaign.
"We'll wait and see what the numbers translate into," said McGuinty. "What I'm saying is what's good for the goose is good for the gander."
McGuinty said while Ontario is struggling to rebuild and upgrade about 80 per cent of its electricity system, the federal Conservatives have offered support for energy projects in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Quebec, Yukon and Newfoundland.
"Ottawa has been particularly adept at supporting the oil and gas sector in western Canada," he said. "It'd be nice to see Ontario MPs start to stay it's important that we support the clean energy industry that is burgeoning in the province of Ontario."
Quebec Premier Jean Charest has also condemned the federal assistance for the Lower Churchill project, calling it an unfair subsidy.
"Quebec developed its network by itself," Charest said last Friday. "Hydro-Quebec financed its operations by itself, including the interconnections with our neighbours."
Ontario's opposition leaders were skeptical about McGuinty's attempts to get some attention in the federal election campaign.
"The last deal that (McGuinty) struck with the feds was to bring the HST to Ontario, so I worry about the premier's efforts in this current campaign," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.