‘How do you sleep at night?’: Rap video takes aim at Ontario premier and hydro price hikes

‘How do you sleep at night?’: Rap video takes aim at Ontario premier and hydro price hikes

‘How do you sleep at night?’: Rap video takes aim at Ontario premier and hydro price hikes

Dylan Kristy, Postmedia News | January 19, 2017 1:07 PM ET
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Jeremy Renaud released a three-minute video for his song Hydro Bills, on Monday, calling out the premier of Ontario for the province’s soaring hydro rates and her ties to the controversial hikes.

“I grew tired of constantly paying overpriced bills and not having any way to be heard about how unhappy I am,” Renaud said Wednesday.

Dan Janisse / Postmedia

Dan Janisse / PostmediaWindsor rapper Jeremy Renaud (J Reno) is shown at his Windsor home on Jan. 18, 2017

“I figured there was no time like the present to get it off my mind and use my platform to get it out there.”

Performing under the moniker J Reno, the music video had been viewed nearly 105,000 times by Thursday morning.

Renaud said his hydro bills have been well over $500 some months, which he attributes to the absence of natural gas in his neighbourhood of Little River Acres.

“I guess the logical thing would be to move but my kids are in school here, their friends are here and this is where I grew up,” Renaud explained, who has two sons ages nine and 13.

“I love my neighbourhood and it just sucks that we don’t have any assistance.”

Dan Janisse / Postmedia

Dan Janisse / PostmediaJ Reno’s song called Hydro Bills

Renaud said he will often use a space heater to avoid using the electric baseboard heaters, but when temperatures plummet he is left without a choice.

“You sit comfortable, while most people here struggle. You’re corrupt,” Renaud raps in the video, wearing a hoodie draped over his head and pointing at the camera.

“You don’t know what it’s like to decide whether to give food for your family or keep on the lights. You’re killing us.”

The 30-year-old rapper said he never expected the video to become this popular and he’s been interviewed by national media and contacted by politicians.

I can’t say I know the ins and outs of Canadian politics, but I do pay attention to the issues that directly affect me and my family

Renaud said he did make a conscious decision to keep the lyrics professional and respectful in an effort to reach more people.
Since the video’s release on Monday, Renaud said he has been accused of being a mouthpiece for the Conservatives.

“It’s absolutely hilarious,” Renaud said.

“I’m not a super political guy. I can’t say I know the ins and outs of Canadian politics, but I do pay attention to the issues that directly affect me and my family. Hydro is the biggest one.”

Wynne told the Ontario Liberal Party’s annual general meeting in November that she was well aware of the “mistake” she had made.

“People have told me that they’ve had to choose between paying the electricity bill and buying food or paying rent,” Wynne said. “It is unacceptable that people in Ontario could be facing that choice. So our government made a mistake.

“It was my mistake. And I’m going to do my best to fix it.”

According to Liberal polls released last year, 94 per cent of Ontario residents were eager for hydro pricing relief. The high electricity prices spawned several protests and were also cited as a factor in the Liberals’ byelection loss.

Renaud said the day the video went viral was “the most crazy, emotional, rollercoaster I’ve ever experienced in my life.”

As the messages and likes were pouring in on Tuesday, Renaud’s grandmother died in hospital.

“It’s been tough but I try to be a positive person,” he said.

“There’s a reason everything happens and right now it feels like she’s pulling some strings for me.”

With files from Postmedia News

A local hip-hop artist has a poignant question for Kathleen Wynne: “How do you sleep at night?”


Wynne has her gas-plant moment with about-face on Toronto tolls



Wynne has her gas-plant moment with about-face on Toronto tolls

There comes a moment, late in some political leaders’ careers, when their abandonment of what they once believed crystallizes in a single, desperate attempt to preserve their hold on office a little longer.

For Dalton McGuinty, Kathleen Wynne’s predecessor as premier of Ontario, it was the cancellation of a planned gas-fired power plant – not the scandal that followed, involving his government’s handling of the costs related to that about-face and a subsequent, similar one, but the initial cave-in. Having to that point prided himself on standing up to NIMBYism as the province built energy supply where it was needed, Mr. McGuinty decided, a year out from his final election as Liberal leader, that it just wasn’t worth incurring the wrath of the suburban swing riding where the plant was to be located.

Now, Ms. Wynne has her own version. Maybe it won’t prove as disastrous in terms of the financial and ethical fallout. But if anything, her decision this week to block Toronto’s municipal government from introducing road tolls on the city’s Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway is an even more poetic symbol of what power – and the fear of losing it – does to people.

Read more: Bitter over tolling veto, mayor says Toronto being treated like child

Marcus Gee: Wynne’s veto of Toronto road toll plan is an act of political cowardice

That’s because back when Ms. Wynne won her party’s 2013 leadership contest to succeed Mr. McGuinty, she not only supported road tolls or dedicated taxes as a way of funding upgrades to transportation infrastructure, she held up that support as the definitive sign of principle and courage that would breathe new life into the tired government she inherited.

Mr. McGuinty, his successor’s team was not shy about hinting, had lacked the stomach to introduce such levies, even though there was lots of evidence they were needed. Ms. Wynne would set herself apart by going where he had feared to tread.

Within a few months, she was retracing her steps down that path. A new campaign team – brought in when she responded to some disappointing by-elections by jettisoning people who had steered her leadership win – advised her that tolls were a loser with voters. So out that idea went, supplanted – as her differentiation point – by a proposal for a new provincial public pension plan, which tested better.

Still, you could believe – and Ms. Wynne almost certainly did – that she hadn’t done a complete one-eighty. It just wasn’t the time. Maybe later.

Well, now it is later. Toronto Mayor John Tory, with whom she enjoyed a close relationship to this point, proved willing to go beyond abstract talk of tolls and actually propose a specific one. City council, not usually known for its fortitude, went along with it. By initially making positive noises, Ms. Wynne demonstrated that she still thought this was an okay idea – as long as someone else took most of the heat.

Then even that proved too much for her, and she decided that she couldn’t afford to let Mr. Tory be bold, either. Little more than a year out from the next campaign, her party’s polling numbers are already brutal. Fees on suburbanites entering Toronto’s core, which provincial opposition was already trying to pin on her, could make them worse. Better just to send a wad of provincial cash the city’s way – not as much as the tolls were expected to raise, mind you – and make the problem go away.

Never mind whether tolls are a good idea. Ms. Wynne thought they were – still thinks so, as far as anyone knows. The point, as she once set out, was not just to fund particular projects but to start a new, sophisticated conversation about how we pay for necessary infrastructure. Now, she’ll prevent anyone from having that conversation if doing so moderately improves her chances of another term – one that nobody, Ms. Wynne included, seems to know what she would do with.

It’s not inconceivable it will help in that regard. Mr. McGuinty did manage to keep office after the gas-plant cancellations, albeit reduced to a minority government he would have won anyway – and one that he seemed to regret seeking by the time he resigned. The ability of Ontario’s opposition parties to improbably give the Liberals another lease on life should not be underestimated, based on recent history; neither, in fairness, should Liberal operatives’ ability to plot election strategy.

It is equally possible it will make matters even grimmer for Ms. Wynne. What precisely infuriates most Ontarians about their Premier can be difficult to put a finger on; most of the biggest policy grievances (most notably energy prices) were inherited from Mr. McGuinty, yet Ms. Wynne inspires a level of antipathy he rarely did until the very end of his premiership. Sexism and homophobia, the worst examples of which her office recently flagged, probably contribute to some of it. But so, too, does a sense that a disarmingly genuine long-time activist who promised to bring a different sensibility to provincial politics has instead come to look – through scandals and compromises and cynical ploys – like a very typical politician indeed. And the obvious calculations behind her latest walk-back fit right into it.

Whatever the benefit or fallout with voters from this week’s decision, it’s around this point that Ms. Wynne should be asking herself why she’s even bothering – why she still wants to be premier, beyond the creeping fear of any incumbent of being replaced by some barbarian at the gate.

The Kathleen Wynne who presented herself as an antidote to the cynicism that Mr. McGuinty allowed to overtake him might look at her slim re-election prospects in next year’s provincial campaign and see the remainder of her mandate as a chance to do tough things she believes in. But it feels now as though she’s passed the point of no return, letting that cynicism overtake her as well.

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It’s Time For Kathleen Wynne To Consider Stepping Aside


It’s Time For Kathleen Wynne To Consider Stepping Aside

Posted: 01/23/2017 3:43 pm EST Updated: 01/23/2017 3:43 pm EST

Some decisions in politics are easy. It is not hard to oppose Trump and every vile thing he stands for.

In general though political decisions are not often so clear cut. In 2017 — sooner rather than later — Premier Kathleen Wynne will have such a decision to make about her future, and in fact the future of the province.

New polling indicates there has been little change in her popularity, or lack there of to be specific. Her approval ratings sit barely into double digits, and show no sign of improving. The decision she faces is fairly obvious to anyone with a basic understanding of politics, or math for that matter.

I’m known to hold unpopular opinions at times — Friends is better than Seinfeld — so I have no issues with sharing another one. Premier Wynne has by and large done an excellent job. She put forth a bold platform and won an unlikely majority, at a time when many counted her party out. She has gone about implementing many much needed changes in pressing social issues, education, transit, and the environment.

Unfortunately, a significant portion of the electorate does not care.

I believe a great deal of the negative — at times visceral — reactions to Premier Wynne stem in no small part from the fact that she is both a women and openly gay. Women in politics from across partisan divides, are subject to abuse and levels of contempt rarely experienced by their male counterparts. Such vitriol is occasionally even promoted by major media outlets.

However, her dismal approval ratings cannot be laid solely on the denizens of commentville or the local chapter of the “I hate lefties” club. It runs deeper than that.

People in Ontario have seen life get progressively more expensive while their wages have stayed the same or vanished all together. Hydro costs in particular are often cited as what’s driving up the cost of living, and driving down the premier’s popularity. The Globe and Mail broke down hydro costs recently, showing how little of your hydro bill is actually Wynne’s fault. Perception in politics being what it is, I doubt many people are open to that argument though.

Premier Wynne should seriously consider what’s at risk in 2018.

In 2015 we saw Canadians embrace a progressive platform and elect a majority Liberal government. Clearly there is an audience for the progressive values Wynne has championed. The Liberal party polls better than the premier, suggesting another win is not out of the question. Particularly if mistrust of Patrick Brown grows, and if his party continues to pack their guns with feet seeking bullets.

Premier Wynne should seriously consider what’s at risk in 2018. With a radical conservative agenda taking hold in America, a slightly softer version here could seem palatable to the people of Ontario. Leaving Patrick Brown and his party to unwind much of the progress the Liberals have made.

Hopefully, Premier Wynne has at least considered the option to step aside. She has worked hard to put forth programs meant to benefit all of the people of Ontario, and for that work to continue someone else may need to take the lead.

I suspect Premier Wynne already knows that because after all, that’s essentially how she got the job in the first place.