Andrea Horwath’s surging support in the latest polls is bringing scrutiny to her New Democrats’ election promises, including a pledge to re-nationalize Hydro One, the province’s giant utility partially privatized by the governing Liberals to raise money for infrastructure projects.
The Ontario NDP leader has said the move would help cut electricity bills, which have more than doubled in the past decade.
But some experts say moving the utility into the public sector’s hands could be costly and it wouldn’t automatically reduce electricity rates by a significant amount.
Under Horwath’s plan, an NDP government would buy back 313 million publicly traded shares of Hydro One not held by the government for between $3.3 billion and $4.4 billion using the annual dividend of less than $300 million.
Experts say the party could be underestimating the real cost by several billions given the shares’ current trading price of about $19.50 and a possible 30 per cent takeover premium shareholders would likely expect.
University of Waterloo professor Jatin Nathwani described the NDP proposal as putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.
“To argue that somehow bringing it back under government control magically everything will be fine is an open question,” he said in an interview.