Premier Kathleen Wynne is promising to win back the hearts and trust of Ontarians amid a string of ethics scandals, public outcry over high electricity prices and collapsing approval ratings — she is calling high electricity prices her “mistake”.
In a speech at the Ontario Liberal annual general meeting in Ottawa on Saturday, the premier says she takes full responsibility “for not paying close enough attention to some of the daily stresses in Ontarians’ lives.”
Wynne said part of convincing Ontarians that she wants to do what is in their best interests is admitting when she has made a mistake. “People have told me that they’ve had to choose between paying the electricity bill and buying food or paying rent,” the premier said. “That is unacceptable to me. It is unacceptable that people in Ontario are facing that choice. Our government made a mistake. It was my mistake.”
“People look at me and many of them think: ‘She’s not who we thought she was. She’s become a typical politician. She’ll do anything to win,’” Wynne said. “Frankly, I think I sometimes have given them reason to think that.”
An eight-per-cent rebate on electricity bills comes into effect as of January 1, but Wynne said she will find more ways to lower rates and reduce the burden on consumers across Ontario.
After her introspective speech, Wynne would not point to any specific decision on the electricity policy that she deems a mistake, but said her focus was on the bigger issues facing the system. She continued, mentioning that she has not always paid enough attention to how costs were accumulating and affecting Ontarians.
“I will do my very best to listen, to respond, to lead, and to serve you and the people of Ontario better,” she said. “I will be right there with you: As premier, as leader, I’ll be there with you as Kathleen, a proud mother and grandmother.”
At one point during the 25-minute speech, the normally collected Premier appeared to be holding back tears as her supporters gave her a standing ovation. Her speech as peppered with references to “fairness and inclusion” and “our commitment to leave no one behind.”
“I have done my level best to address the issues that I see in the province and to implement the plan that I ran on. But it’s an imperfect process. Politics, like life, is imperfect,” she said. “What I’m saying today is that I recognize that I have not perfectly served the people of Ontario.”
As Wynne’s personal popularity has plummeted under 20 per cent, rising hydro bills have become one of the most pressing issues for the governing party ahead of the June 2018 election.
The Progressive Conservatives say electricity rates were driven up much higher than necessary by the Liberals’ overly-generous, long-term contacts for wind and solar power.
Wynne said she wasn’t going to talk about the June 2018 election — although she did mention that she is committed to visiting every single riding between now and the election to connect with Ontarians.
-Loredana Del Bello, Assistant News Editor