Rising Hydro Costs Only an ‘urgent issue’ for Ontario Premier After By-Election Loss: MPPs

Progressive Conservative and New Democratic politicians say an “embarrassing” byelection loss is the only reason Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne admitted that the rising cost of hydro across the province is an “urgent issue” for the Liberal government.

Wynne’s concession came just days after her party lost a long-held Liberal seat in the Scarborough-Rouge River byelection to the PCs.

READ MORE: Ontario won’t be able to reduce soaring hydro costs anytime soon, say experts

Ontario PC Energy Critic MPP John Yakabuski told Global News Thursday he feels the government is finally recognizing that the price of hydro was driving people into “energy poverty,” something he said consumers and politicians had raised for several years.

“And we were met with deaf ears on the part of the Liberal government, the energy minister even just a couple of weeks ago said, ‘No, no, no it’s not a crisis,’” he said, referring to a Global News interview with Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault.

“I want to thank Global for doing those exposés during these past several months as well on what the price of hydro was doing to people. … But now that they’ve lost a byelection in [Scarborough-Rouge River] on a seat that the Liberals have never lost, all of a sudden their thoughts have changed and they recognize now that, ‘Hey, we do have a problem with hydro rates.’”

WATCH: NDP Energy Critic Peter Tabuns speaks out on Ontario hydro crisis

Yakabuski said the fact that 60,000 households across Ontario had their electricity shut off is a clear indication there is an energy affordability crisis in the province, and he says there needs to be a clear plan of action put into place by the Liberals.

“Finally they’re getting around to at least admitting it, with no details about what they might do to mitigate it at this point,” he said, adding that the Liberals had signed expensive contracts with “Liberal-friendly developers” who are reaping huge profits.

“I’m not sure what they can do because they’ve created all of the problems. … the decisions that they made over the past several years are the ones that have caused this problem.”

PC MPP Lisa Thompson said that if Wynne was “serious” about addressing the “electricity crisis in Ontario,” she would immediately halt any further sale of Hydro One and cease signing lucrative energy contracts.

“I think the premier is still stinging from her embarrassing loss last week in Scarborough-Rouge River and she’s trying to change the channel and give the air of wanting to listen and react positively to the concerns of Ontarians and guess what? … they’re just not buying it,” she said. “Because they’ve lost trust in this premier and in the Liberal government.”

Thompson put forth a petition to reduce energy rates earlier this month and said she has had thousands of Ontarians sign it in support of driving the prices down.

“It’s a sad state of affairs in this province and it’s all under Premier Wynne and her Liberal government watch,” Thompson said, adding that her party would have a much different approach to mitigating the issue quickly.

“Our plan is to have a fulsome discussion in a policy advisory committee for energy whereby we’re bringing in stakeholders, we’re bringing feet on the street if you will, to help us address and identify exactly what the issues are and best practices on a way forward.”