05/17/2012 08:12 EDT | Updated 07/17/2012 05:12 EDT

Light Bulb! How to Fix Ontario's Power Problems


Ontario has lots of advantages. We have a skilled workforce and hungry entrepreneurs. People who think, invent, forge, grow, build and mine resources, products, services and ideas in demand around the world. And a prime trading location in the heart of North America.

Ontarians know this. We've got a lot going for us. But as I've learned through the town hall meetings I've been traveling to over the last few weeks -- to talk to the people who pay the bills -- people are feeling pretty discouraged right now.

Ontarians haven't completely given up their optimism, though. I know this because, when I remind people at these events that we've come back before, because we've dared to think in new and different ways, I see heads start to nod.

They also nod when I say that now is the time for action in Ontario -- in particular where our economy and energy policy are concerned. Because they know that affordable energy is a fundamental element of Ontario's future economic success.

To get our economy moving again, we need energy policies that will keep prices under control for entrepreneurs, industry, and households alike, while ensuring that the system is reliable and sustainable.

When you look around Canada, you see the provinces that have taken the right steps to assure a steady supply of power at fair rates are well positioned. Those like Ontario, where power rates are being driven up by expensive energy subsidies, are not.

The good news is that Ontarians have a lot of expertise and ideas to offer that can help put our power sector on the right path. That's why the Ontario PC Caucus has produced a new white paper, "Paths to Prosperity: Affordable Energy" -- the first in a series on Ontario's economic fundamentals -- to pull together some of the best ideas we've heard so far and to focus the discussion on finding real solutions to the problem of rapidly escalating electricity prices.

In the paper, we suggest significant changes as to who owns the electricity sector, a return to competitive bidding for power-generation and ideas to save consumers money.

What Ontario needs is an affordable energy act to treat electricity as a job-creation tool for the whole economy, keep power rates under control for consumers, and sustain our renewable energy industry through consumer choice, not subsidies. After all, power prices affect virtually everything we do. In order to grow our economy we must take a new approach to managing our energy sector.

I see hope for Ontario. But we need to start making some tough choices now, bring new ideas to bear, build on our advantages and seize on the natural optimism of the people of our province to fix this problem and make power prices a job creator -- not a job barrier.