Tinker, Tory, Wobbler, Why? : the political economy of electricity restructuring in Ontario, 1995-2003

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Martin, Charles Francis James
Political Science , Ontario Politics , Political Economy , Electricity Policy
The Ontario Tories' 42-year hegemony in government (1943-1985) was wrought through clever policies which often utilized Crown institutions to promote prosperity or to oblige or mollify vying interests. Ousted in 1985, though, they used their time in opposition to revise the Tory doctrine. In the 1995 election, the Tories emerged a tougher, more truculent group quite unlike their predecessors. Campaigning on their Common Sense Revolution (CSR) platform, they promised to eliminate red tape and vowed to obliterate all ostensible economic barriers which were impeding commerce in the province. In the CSR, the Tories identified Ontario Hydro (OH), the province's lauded publicly-owned power monopoly, as a troublesome and inefficient Crown entity which required fundamental reform. Portions of OH, they hinted, would likely be sold. Once elected, the Tories worked hurriedly to demolish OH and destroy public power in Ontario. For nearly 100 years, OH proved a pivotal component within the province's political economy for its provision of affordable, reliable power and its function as a policy tool to incite and direct development. A Tory government fought to instigate public power in the early 1900s and, in the late 1900s, a Tory government was fighting vigorously to rescind it. Why would they now renounce Crown power? It is the intent of this thesis to elucidate the Tory government's involvement in the transformation of Ontario's electricity industry from 1995 to 2003. Distinguishing electricity as a special, strategic staple, this thesis uses a pro-state, pro-staples industry political economy approach to discern how and why the Tory government sought to restructure the electricity sector. Essentially, it posits that the onslaught of neoliberalism, the emergence of novel generating technology, and the faltering of OH's nuclear wing all had a huge part to play in provoking the Tory government to initiate its reforms. Their reforms, though, proved too hasty, haughty, and fraught with ambiguity to work properly. While their open, competitive power market and attempts to privatize Hydro One failed horribly, the Tories' energy re-regulation strategy did hold promise to allow the state to retain a prominent role in the power industry.
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