I heard from Premier McGuinty’s office that they were looking for help in the forthcoming provincial election and I was in a “must go to” folder. I was more shocked than surprised to hear from them because my Interim column back last November. “The Real McGuinty,” in which I said: “go, Mr. McGuinty! Take your pagan agenda with you.” This was certainly not a Christmas greeting.
I said aloud: “wow. Talk about forgiveness.” Then I began to wonder whether someone in the Premier’s office was smoking that bad kind of tobacco or someone had emptied the liquor cabinet.
I hustled down to Queen’s Park with some fear and trepidation. A young attractive woman in Hazelton Lanes attire came out from an inner office. I introduced myself. Then she said: “You’re Mr. Kennedy, from The Interim. I’m Penelope Watson, Mr. McGuinty’s executive assistant. Call me Penelope. I’m sorry Mr. Kennedy, to inconvenience you but the Premier isn’t in. I see in the file, your nickname is Ponzi. That’s a highly unusual nickname.”
“Ponzi,” I exclaimed. “That’s someone who operates a scam.”
“Yes, that’s strange. I’ve never had the chance to read your paper. There are so many papers to read. I’m new here.”
“Well could you answer a few questions, Penelope?” I said.
“Yes.” she said. “I believe in political transparency. In fact my thesis for my doctorate was on political transparency.”
“It was?” I said. “I’m delighted to hear that.”
“I’m sure that Premier McGuinty has nothing to hide.’ said Penelope.
“I hope not.” I said, putting my small tape recorder on her desk. “Thank you. I’ll proceed. Since 2003 when McGuinty took office, hydro costs have doubled and about three million residential users are suffering financially. What is Premier McGuinty going to do about it?”
“Prices go up and prices go down,” she answered. “I’m sure we’re all aware of that.’
“Well you did spend a million dollars on a booklet sent to every household telling us why hydro bills are up and will go 42 per cent higher in five years. They want know what McGuinty’s going to do about it.”
“I don’t think he can do much about it. It’s out of his hands. I think it would’ve been wiser for him to put the million dollars into Ontario lottery tickets.”
“Penelope,” I intoned. “I’m not sure that’s a better alternative. What about the people living in the rural area who invested thousands of dollars in solar panels, but now they’re unable to connect them to the grid. Is their investment worthless?”
“Well you know what they say: ‘if you don’t want to risk your capital keep it in your savings account or under your pillow.’”I grimly persisted. “You cancelled a gas turbine installation in Oakville when you said the power wasn’t needed. Now you’ve found that you signed a permanent 20-year contract. You’re going to have to pay an arm and a leg to get out of that.”
“Yeah, we’re looking for a guy who’s got an arm and a leg to spare.”
“It’s no laughing matter, Penelope. Your government is still issuing new contracts for wind and solar generation. You’re already stuck with a major liability for a source of hydro power when you have to depend on how the wind is blowing.”
“Mr. Kennedy, we depended on sailing ships for centuries crossing oceans using only wind power until we found a better solution.””
“Penelope, that’s not the problem. You forgot that the Ontario Energy Board just recently ruled that local hydro distributors could charge customers $18 million to recoup from a decision by our 2004 Supreme Court. They feel that the Ontario government should pay.”
“Mr. Kennedy, where do you think the Ontario government’s getting the money from, if not the customers?”
“Well, Penelope, you want to make friends with your customers— they’re also your voters. If you got rid of the 8 per cent portion of the 13 per cent HST and demand the federal government eliminate its 5 percent on the grounds that hydro is an essential service you’d have savings to the consumer of about a billion dollars.”
“That’s a small amount for what it takes to run the province. You’re suggesting that we almost milk to death one of the only few good cows we’ve got. I’ll bring your concerns to Premier McGuinty’s attention.”said Penelope.
“Thank you. I’m grateful for your interest. I look forward to hearing from you. Goodbye.”
“Goodbye, Mr. Kennedy. Thanks for coming. Don’t hold your breath.”
I have a horrible feeling I laid a giant sized egg.