The “politicization” of electricity in Ontario has been a concern for some time. The restructuring of Ontario’s electricity sector at the start of the last decade was intended, in part, to remove the politics from power. Ironically, provincial government intervention in the sector has, if anything, been increasing since that time.

Professor Guy Holburn, Director of Energy@Ivey, Richard Ivey School of Business (University of Western Ontario), has been studying the matter. On June 2nd, the Council for Clean & Reliable Electricity, in co-operation with Gowlings, hosted an invitational luncheon for the presentation by Professor Holburn of his research results.

Contrasting the current legislative framework in Ontario with a more traditional regulatory/policy making model, Professor Holburn observed the unusual prominence of recent Ontario Energy Ministers in electricity policy implementation. Professor Holburn considered the increasing frequency of Ministerial directives issued since 2004, as a number of Ministers succeeded to the portfolio. In contrast to how electricity policy has been made and implemented in recent years in Ontario, Professor Holburn identified the importance of policy consistency and stability to renewable energy companies surveyed. The survey respondents expressed the concern that Ontario electricity policy has been increasingly unstable.

Following Professor Holburn’s presentation discussion was led by Dr. Jan Carr, the first CEO of the Ontario Power Authority and currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Alberta Electricity System Operator. Participants from academia, the public service, the legal community, NGOs and the utility sector agreed that policy stability favours “depoliticization” of the sector, and that Ontario’s electricity sector is anything but depoliticized. The question at hand was what could and should be done. The topic promises to be one that gets continuing attention through the Provincial election in October and during the next provincial government mandate.