Letters, week of Aug. 21

Hydro should be not-for-profit commodity

Sir: Re: George Mathewson’s column in defence of Bluewater Power.

I agree fully with his statements regarding the outrageous operating practices at Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One. What he fails to mention is that in spite of paying staff bloated salaries and benefit, (6,000 of 11,000 employees on the Sunshine List), they turned over $13 billion to the provincial government between 2002 and 2011. The government is the only shareholder.

You could say, great job! Ontario taxpayers benefit from the contribution by keeping provincial taxes down.

That’s the rationale Mr. Mathewson uses with Bluewater Power. Its operating profits are returned to the shareholders – Sarnia and other municipalities – to help keep down property taxes. Last year it was $2.5 million.

So why is OPG and Hydro One making a profit to benefit taxpayers bad, and Bluewater Power making a profit to benefit taxpayers good?

In both cases it is bad. Sarnia at the last budget meeting voted to take another $80,000 dividend from Bluewater Power for 2014/15, which may require a rate increase in its delivery charges.

The fact that all levels of government use hydro as a revenue source is plain wrong! Here’s why.

Hydro keeps the lights on, heats and cools your home, cooks meals, etc.

With rates set to provide profit to shareholders, Mother Nature kicks in and goes crazy. The mildest winter in history forces usage and profits way down. With the coldest summer in history, no air conditioners are running, and consumption and profits are way down. Transfers to shareholders are down. The result: increased property taxes or cut services.

Reverse scenario. Coldest winter, and people on fixed incomes can’t keep the heat on and freeze. That follows the hottest summer in history. People can’t afford air conditioning and die of heatstroke.

The logical solution is to run the power supply system as a not-for-profit entity. If governments need more revenue, increase taxes as required. At least that’s a known cost that doesn’t rise and fall with the weather.

If we reduced our rates by the billions in profit collected by governments at all levels, we would have one of the lowest rates in Canada.

Toby Bidtnes

Sarnia

 

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Council right to act on signs

Sir: Congratulations to the members of Sarnia Council for taking the first step in reigning in the blight imposed upon this city by the rash of temporary signs.

The density and grouping of the signs can be a distraction to drivers and riders.

This bylaw is not “stupid,” but is a part of reasoned governance that balances the needs of business (especially those that cater to the tourist industry) and the citizens’ enjoyment of a blight-abated city.

Mike Martin

Sarnia  

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Sign bylaw had plenty of public input

Sir: Both the letter by Marie Timperley (City sign bylaw is ridiculous), published in the Aug 14 edition, and the article about Matteo’s Pizza in the previous edition of The Journal, failed to explain that Sarnia’s sign bylaw was updated largely as a result of input from the public.

City staff not only attended several public events to gather input but also scheduled public meetings and questionnaires to provide them with further guidance.

In addition, the draft bylaw was made available to business and the public for further review and comments, which resulted in several amendments, before it went to council for approval.

The restrictions imposed on mobile signs, such as the one outside the Matteo’s pizzeria, resulted from widespread public concerns that these signs, with their neon lettering, were ugly and that there were far too many of them in the city.

The City was therefore just responding to public input in updating this bylaw, and has now brought it into line with similar legislation in many other cities.

I’m sure city staff will be pleased to explain the process they went through in preparing this bylaw and how it compares to that of other cities, to anyone that may be interested.

Finally, these changes were not intended to be anti-business, but we do have to balance the interests of the public in having a livable and reasonably attractive city with those of business.

Peter Smith

Sarnia