Focus on hydro rates, appetite for change in Ottawa-Vanier byelection

The provincial byelection in Ottawa-Vanier is being framed as a referendum on the governing Liberals and their ability to manage the cost of hydro ahead of the next provincial election.

Candidates making their pitches about who's best to tackle rising cost of electricity

Three political rookies are running for Ontario's three major parties in the Ottawa-Vanier byelection: Claude Bisson of the NDP (left), Nathalie Des Rosiers of the Liberals (centre) and André Marin of the Progressive Conservatives (right). (CBC)

The provincial byelection in Ottawa-Vanier is being framed as a referendum on the governing Liberals and their ability to manage the cost of hydro ahead of the next provincial election in less than two years.

When Liberal MPP Madeleine Meilleur retired in July it triggered a byelection in this urban riding made up of a range of communities, including the ByWard Market, Sandy Hill, Overbrook and parts of Gloucester.

The byelection is being held Nov. 17.

Ottawa-Vanier voters have elected a Liberal in 13 straight elections dating back to 1971, but the party has been harshly criticized for the province's rising hydro rates — and opposition parties are trying to use that to their advantage.

Ottawa-Vanier hasn't elected a PC MPP since 1967. (Radio-Canada)

"You look at the Liberals, they're in disarray. They're acting like a left-wing party with right-wing policies such as selling Hydro One to the private sector," said Progressive Conservative candidate André Marin, who was the Ontario ombudsman from 2005 to 2015.

"What do you think is going to happen when Hydro One is sold to the private sector? It's not a charity, the prices will continue going up… hydro-electricity pricing, as well as the mismanagement of the file, is the number one issue on people's minds."

When asked about his solution for the cost of hydro, Marin said a PC government would try to reverse the damage caused by the Liberals. He called on the current government to stop signing green energy contracts that are flooding the market with too much electricity, and costing hydro companies money.

Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault cancelled plans to sign contracts for up to 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy last month.

NDP candidate Claude Bisson, a former RCMP executive and the brother of NDP MPP Gilles Bisson, said there's an opening for his party in the race between three political rookies.

"The Liberal governments have privatized too much hydro as it is now and it all started with the Progressive Conservatives," he said Saturday.

"The NDP is the party that can make that difference."

How big is appetite for change?

Liberal candidate Nathalie Des Rosiers said changing the hydro system doesn't have to mean voting against the Liberals.

"We're not going backwards. We can't go back to coal and we can't go back to having blackouts," she said.

"We need to have an electricity regime that works well but that is affordable to everyone. The next two years, if there are changes to be made, we'll certainly do that and I'm hearing it very clearly."

For Marin, it's a chance to introduce what he calls leader Patrick Brown's socially progressive, fiscally responsible PC party to the electorate in Ottawa-Vanier — and the province at large.

"The people of Ottawa-Vanier don't realize the power they have right now: the power to tell Queen's Park, we're sick and tired of your scandal, your mismanagement and your handling of all types of different issues, from corrections issues to hydroelectricity," he said.

"The day after the election, whether I win or not, the Liberals will still be in power. But if I win that election — and I will win it — it's telling Kathleen Wynne we are not pleased and stop taking this riding for granted as you have for 45 years."

Bisson echoed the sentiment.

"We've been campaigning for about two months and what I'm hearing at the door is people are tired of the Liberals and they're ready to make a change," Bisson said.

11 candidates registered

Other registered candidates include Green Party of Ontario says geographer and environmentalist Raphaël Morin, anti-poverty activist Kevin Clarke of the People's Political Party and a Thornhill, Ont., man who legally changed his name to Above Znoneofthe.

Here is the complete list:

  • Claude Bisson, New Democratic Party of Ontario
  • Kevin Clarke, The Peoples Political Party
  • Elizabeth de Viel Castel, Stop the New Sex-Ed Agenda
  • Nathalie Des Rosiers, Ontario Liberal Party
  • Dean T. Harris, Ontario Libertarian Party
  • André Marin, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario
  • Stephanie McEvoy, Canadian Constituents' Party
  • David McGruer, Freedom Party of Ontario
  • Raphaël Morin, Green Party of Ontario
  • John Turmel, Pauper Party of Ontario
  • Above Znoneofthe, None of the Above Party

With files from Jérôme Bergeron