Critics pan Ont.'s green energy deal with Samsung

Critics took aim Wednesday at the terms of a $7-billion renewable energy deal the Ontario government has reportedly reached with South Korean industrial giant Samsung.

Critics took aim Wednesday at the terms of a $7-billion renewable energy deal the Ontario government has reportedly reached with South Korean industrial giant Samsung.

Premier Dalton McGuinty is expected to sign the deal Thursday, a deal that would see Samsung build wind and solar farms across Ontario and also build four manufacturing plants.

The Ontario government first revealed in September that it was talking to Samsung about a project that could bring 15,000 jobs to the province.

Some say it gives the huge company an unfair advantage over local wind and solar producers.

The provincial government hopes the agreement will create about 15,000 jobs — a big part of the province's goal to create 50,000 new jobs in the emerging green energy sector.

Energy watchdog Tom Adams doubts that will happen, calling it a "crazy fantasy" that's not based in reality.

Adams said not only is Samsung getting what he calls "extra juicy rates" for the power it produces, it's also getting guaranteed space on Ontario's crowded electricity transmission lines.

The Canadian Press has reported that the South Korean consortium could be paid "slightly more" than the 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour the province pays for wind power, if Samsung builds up to four new manufacturing facilities in Ontario and creates a specified number of jobs. The report did not identify its source.

The Canadian Wind Energy Association said that's unfair and puts Samsung ahead of local producers of renewable energy.

The Opposition called for an investigation by the provincial auditor general into whether taxpayers are getting a good deal.

"This secret, sweetheart deal with Samsung has a bad smell to it," said Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak. 

"Dalton McGuinty once famously promised the people of Ontario that he would end sole-sourced, secretive and untendered contracts, yet this deal with Samsung is the mother of all untendered contracts."

The New Democrats want the agreement to include guarantees to keep manufacturing of new wind and solar technologies in Ontario and not just be an incentive to import Korean technology.

"My concern is that we have to make sure that jobs are created in Ontario," NDP environment critic Peter Tabuns told CBC News.

Tabuns said it's important "that manufacturing happens in Ontario, that people in Ontario who badly need good-paying manufacturing jobs get them."

Andrew Lord, an associate at the Toronto-based law firm Davis LLP, said the deal's timing might be a good thing, from the government's point of view.

"The problem they’re facing has obviously been the substantial decline of the manufacturing sector generally and the opportunity they're facing is to position Ontario as Canada’s leader in the emerging renewable power sector," said Lord, who practices corporate and commercial law specializing in the renewable energy sector.

He predicted the deal could be a disappointment for smaller renewable energy firms whose profits depend on getting the rate paid for wind power, "particularly project developers, but also manufacturers, particularly in the end of last year, [who have] invested a lot of time and money in positioning themselves to participate in this evolving renewable power market in the province."

With files from The Canadian Press