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VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Ontario's opposition Progressive Conservatives said on Tuesday they would scrap the province's feed-in tariff (FIT) program as well as the biggest deal signed under the green energy scheme if the party wins the October provincial election.
If elected, the Conservatives, who are leading the governing Liberal Party in opinion polls, would cancel a C$7 billion ($7.3 billion) solar and wind energy deal the province signed last year with South Korea's Samsung C&T, party leader Tim Hudak said on Tuesday.
The party would, however, honor existing contracts handed out under the FIT program, which pays generous, above-market rates to solar, wind, water and biomass power producers under fixed 20-year contracts, he said.
"An Ontario PC government will end the sweetheart Samsung deal... Also, we will end the FIT program," Hudak said.
"It is unsustainable and is unnecessarily driving up the cost of energy for families and businesses," he said in a speech in Toronto.
The Conservatives have threatened for months to overhaul the FIT program if they win the October 6 election, but Tuesday's announcement was their strongest policy statement on green energy to date.
Foreign and domestic producers of renewable energy have flocked to Ontario, Canada's most populous province, since it launched North America's richest and most comprehensive feed-in tariff program late in 2009.
The program is aimed at creating jobs and eliminating coal-fired power plants to cut greenhouse gases, but has angered some ratepayers who blame it for rising power prices, a charge denied by supporters.
"The recent price hikes we have seen in Ontario have nothing to do with the prices being paid for new wind energy generation under the Green Energy Act, as only a very small number of projects are operating at this time," Canadian Wind Energy Association president Robert Hornung said.
Samsung said it would expect any future government of Ontario to honor its agreement with the province.
"It is because of our agreement that the world's leading renewable energy companies have come together to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to date, and create hundreds of good, high-quality jobs in Ontario," the company said in a statement.
Samsung and its partners, which have pledged to open four manufacturing plants, create 16,000 jobs and generate 2,500 megawatts of wind and solar power, have as yet built nothing in Ontario, Conservative party energy critic John Yakabuski said.
"We believe there are many contractual issues that have not been satisfied," Yakabuski told Reuters.
Hudak said hydro and nuclear power should remain the "workhorses" of Ontario's energy system with renewable energy part of the mix but only at affordable rates.
Editing by Rob Wilson; editing by Rob Wilson