Last week, we learned authoritatively that the Ontario Government lost $1billion in two electricity generation projects. Rather than rethinking whether it’s wise for the Government of Ontario to sit at the table as a "commercial" player with big-time capitalists in the money-mad energy sector, Kathleen Wynne thinks she knows how to be as bold as Dalton McGuinty — without wasting another $billion.
The new premier and her Cabinet will carry on as the owner of two of the largest "commercial" electricity companies in North America — Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One — and will continue to hold the statutory power to shape the terms of commercial electricity development in Ontario. Wynne hasn’t volunteered a tinkle of doubt about the extraordinary political centralization of electricity decision-making in Ontario.
However, while struggling to “contain the fallout," the Globe and Mail
“Once again apologizing to Ontarians, Premier Kathleen Wynne took the extraordinary step of vowing to ban political staff from interfering with commercial transactions.
“As a new Premier leading a new government, I pledge to you that this will not happen under my watch,” Ms. Wynne told a Queen’s Park news conference after the audit was released.”
So Wynne, in one way, will be different.
She will make prudent commercial decisions by keeping her political staff out of the room. Wynne and her cabinet of full-time politicians will be businesslike by keeping their political advisors safely away from their deliberations with their public servants.
This is a conceit. Elected politicians — existentially or in groups — only make political decisions. They don’t think commercially on Mondays through Fridays or on weekends whenever they’re wielding our money.
Partnerships between public and commercial sectors, in emergencies or in new sectors, can do useful work that neither sector can do alone. However, Ontario’s model of commercial/political electricity development is both unnecessary in this century and leads directly to wasteful government and coddled capitalism.