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Dec 24, 2013  |  Vote 0    0

A bitter pill

Listowel Banner

There are few things more depressing than hearing from the Auditor General’s office in December.

During the month where families everywhere are strapped for cash as they get ready for the biggest spending season of the year, we get to learn that this day-to-day struggle does not seem to be part of anyone’s reality at Ontario Power Generation.

Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk, in her report released recently, listed sobering story after sobering story on how the money of Ontario hydro users is being misused.

We could start with the company’s generous moving allowance, which was so generous that it paid one employee $392,000 in housing assistance and moving expenses. The program paid another employee more than $80,000 for moving a distance of 10 kilometres from Toronto to Pickering — a move that actually took the employee further away from his work.

Then there is the pension plan at OPG, where hydro ratepayers put in four to five dollars for every dollar contributed from OPG employees. To make matters worse, this pension fund is short $555 million, which is OPG’s responsibility, likely to be ultimately borne by hydro ratepayers.

And the bonus system of payouts to employees saw one employee fired for ineffective performance and inappropriate behaviour, yet still netting a severance package of $450,000. In the previous four years, that same employee received $760,000 in performance bonuses.

All of this while families in the area struggle with just putting food on the table.

It only takes a few minutes of chatting with staff at food banks or social services to understand just how tough the struggle is for families to make ends meet.

Many of the clients who are relying on the food bank to round out their pay cheques are working hard, or are working hard at looking for work. And for those who can’t, who are receiving disability cheques or Ontario Works payments, the money is barely enough to pay for heat, hydro, rent and food. There isn’t much left over.

When we see how much money is wasted at Ontario Power Generation, to give its employees far more than they deserve, it is truly frustrating to see this kind of disconnect.

High hydro rates, if they are truly warranted, are not much of a hardship for those who make an adequate income; but when ratepayers are in the position of propping up these payouts and are already struggling, it is simply obscene.

We are fortunate in that, through the generosity of local residents, no one need go hungry this holiday season, and that young children will still receive presents.

But not every community has such a program, and there are many people who will likely do without this Christmas.

And while we can’t lay the blame for all of this on the mismanagement we are seeing at the provincial level, it is surely a bitter pill to swallow, to see so much plenty in contrast to so much want.

- Special to The Listowel Banner

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