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Kathleen Wynne tried to use First Nations to silence opposition to Hydro One sell-off. She failed.

Image: Flickr/Premier of Ontario Photography

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What happens when you plow ahead with a plan that 83 per cent of Ontarians strongly oppose? For Premier Kathleen Wynne it means a catastrophic drop in approval ratings with only 14 per cent of people now believing she should lead our government.

The premier's hydro privatization plan, undertaken without a single mention of it during the last election campaign, rammed through with extraordinary arrogance, is now taking its toll on her Liberal government. Despite a litany of expert criticism of the plan and extensive polling demonstrating huge public opposition, the premier seems to believe that her desire for short-term cash is worth the substantial long-term costs to the government and everyone's hydro-bills.

Is the Premier that out of touch with how rising electricity bills are already crippling many seniors, families and businesses? Can she really not have read all the evidence that states rates will only skyrocket further if Hydro One becomes a private, profit-driven corporation?

Another recent decision seems to verify that she has truly lost touch with the reality of most people's lives. In an attempt to silence progressive opposition to the sell-off of Hydro One, the government announced a deal to offer up to 2.5 per cent of Hydro One shares to the First Nations at a discounted rate.

With a manufactured veneer of doing the right thing, the deal was presented as an inclusive way to make amends for past atrocities while providing First Nations communities with a much needed revenue stream. The Premier seems to have overlooked the fact that most people living in these communities can barely afford their current electricity bills, that some remote communities are still trying to get access to the electricity grid, and that she never even bothered to consult with our Frist Nations before getting us into this mess in the first place.

Such a miniscule percentage of shares in Hydro One won't provide First Nations leaders with any influence over the decisions of a new profit-driven corporation. It won't give them the power to get the utility to invest in new infrastructure in communities where profitability comes into question. 2.5 per cent of the shares won't give First Nations leaders an ability to regulate out-of-control hydro rates.

Once again this scheme to try and buy off First Nations opposition to hydro privatization through offering a tiny share in the profits, demonstrates the Premier's focus on satisfying the province's elites at the cost of the rest of us.

Is it too late for Premier Wynne to turn things around for herself, her party and the people of Ontario? Perhaps not -- but it will take a display of significant humility and sober second thought.

The Ontario government still owns 70 per cent of the shares in Hydro One. The Premier could choose to hold on to all of the remaining shares and maintain control of our most precious public asset. She could actually say, "I was wrong. I underestimated the negative impact this would have on our economy and people's lives. We are changing direction."

Admitting you are wrong is one of the hardest things for most of us to do, but it may just be the only thing that helps this government get our province back on track.

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Image: Flickr/Premier of Ontario Photography

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