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Wilson 'money' tour makes local stop

SHAWN GIILCK

COLLINGWOOD -- Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson is hoping to jolt the Ontario government back to reality.

Wilson brought his crusade against the government's plan to continue collecting the debt-retirement fee on hydro bills to Collingwood Friday.

Wilson -- who brought the charge in while serving as Minster of Energy in the Progressive Conservative government in May of 2002 -- said his figures show the government has collected enough money to pay back the outstanding debt of more than $7 billion when Ontario Hydro was split into two companies.

Initially, that debt was pegged at $7.8 billion, said Wilson. His figures show that amount has been repaid. When he introduced the charge, the debt was to be repaid by 2012.

Only interest charges should be left to pay off on that amount now, and it might well be paid in full by next year, he said.

Wilson said his information shows that the provincial government has quietly applied to have the debt-retirement charge -- which takes in around $1 billion a year -- extended for another six years to 2018.

"It's a secret tax-grab," said Wilson heatedly.

"In the past year I have received countless emails, letters and phone calls from families, seniors and businesses in our riding who are concerned about the escalating cost of hydro -- and rightly so," said Wilson.

He said he feels the pain too. Despite making more than $100,000 a year as an MPP, Wilson said he often finds himself "broke" at the end of the month. Energy costs are a big part of that, he said.

Wilson said residential hydro rates have increased by 75% since Premier Dalton McGuinty took office.

"Families in my riding have told me they need a chance to catch up," said Wilson. "They need a break. That's why I've been traveling Ontario to push for relief from rising energy bills."

Wilson had been on the road for a week flogging that message all around Southern Ontario.

In that time, he said he hadn't been contacted by any spokespeople from the province to clarify or deny what his figures show.

"Instead, they've been contacting the media in the areas where I've been with a follow-up," said Wilson. "I've seen three different explanations so far."

"You'd think that a minister who saw a colleague visiting areas around the province talking about this issue would sit down and talk," he added. "That hasn't happened."

"Simcoe-Grey families need to know why the McGuinty Liberals will continue to charge them $1 billion a year plus HST for a debt that should be on track to be paid off next year," said Wilson. "Simcoe-Grey families are rightly concerned that this is looking like a permanent tax-grab."

In November, Wilson introduced a motion that would have forced the Ontario government to reveal the details on the charge.

However, the government voted it down and the information has been kept confidential.

He's calling for a forensic audit to be carried out to make the information public.

AL-ANON

Al-Anon and Al-Ateen meet separately on Mondays at 7:30 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church, Maple St. in Collingwood.

For those affected by someone else's drinking.



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