It's tough competition for headline space in the media lately. Tax policy and energy price adjustments just don't have the same appeal as a mayor smoking crack or secret cheques to cover fraudulent housing expenses.
However, the boring stuff has far more impact on our lives than the circus that follows the eccentric and scandal-plagued leaders in our country.
Not all scandals are equal.
The Ontario Liberal's political decision to cancel gas plants in vote-heavy ridings, on the other hand, actually affects our bottom line. The consequences of the gas plant boondoggle are now coming to fruition, as evident in the drastic rate increase in our power bills starting on November 1st.
The price for off-peak power has increased by 7.5 per cent per kilowatt-hour, and 4 per cent during peak hours. Compare that to the rate of inflation, which is currently about 1.2 per cent. Our off-peak power rates -- the time of day we were previously told to use energy to save money -- has been hiked by more than six times the rate of inflation!
Political interference from the premier's office is responsible for the exasperating price tag of the cancelled gas plant, which could actually exceed the estimated cost of $1.09 billion. The recent auditor general's report states that $625 million of that tab will be passed on to electricity ratepayers in Ontario, who will foot the bill over the next 20 years.
And, as of November, we will fork over more of our after-tax income to the Ontario Power Generation.
Politics often boils down to concentrated benefits and diffused costs. The Liberals -- who benefited significantly from cancelling these plants by saving at least four seats during an election where four seats really mattered -- are hoping that no one will notice this rate increase.
When thirteen and a half million Ontario residents split the tab and pay it off over 20 years from both their tax bill and energy bill, it's less noticeable. That is diffused costs. And that is how our politicians get away with such blatantly partisan, self-interested decision-making.
Unfortunately for this government, that isn't the only factor contributing to rising energy prices in Ontario. The cancelled gas plants are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the mismanagement of the energy file.
The costly and ill-conceived Green Energy Act, which saw billions of taxpayer dollars go to corporate welfare and subsidies to foreign firms, also drives up costs for electricity ratepayers.
Meanwhile, taxpayers pay for a billion-dollar-a-year subsidy known as the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit, a 10 per cent discount to household energy bills to cover the skyrocketing price tag for green energy.
Yes, taxpayers subsidize both the production and the consumption of green energy.
It gets better. Our government also pays some green energy producers not to do anything at all. We learned earlier this fall that Ontario pays some of its wind turbine farmers not to produce energy.
Ronald Reagan must have been talking about Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli's policies when he explained how government works: "If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."
Ontario taxpayers and ratepayers will be stuck for the tab for the incompetence and mismanagement of our energy ministry for years to come. We may not always see it in the news, but we certainly see it in our electricity bills and on our pay stubs.
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