Are you afraid to open your electricity bill?

By MPP Toby Barrett   

Like many in Haldimand and Norfolk, I heat with electricity. We installed a forced-air furnace back when government was encouraging all of us to ‘Live Better Electrically’.

How things have changed.

I am now forced to put up 20 cords of wood just to get through the winter –natural gas is not an option for me and many others.

Electricity has served us well in Ontario, but the wrong people have gained control and destroyed the economic advantage of this wonderful invention. Hence, the tremendous backlash to this government’s recent proposal that those who have natural gas replace it with high-priced electric heat.

Those who have air conditioners also have reasons for worry when their bills arrive after one of the hottest summers on record.

Despite the Throne Speech rebate announcement, a Globe and Mail investigation revealed rural hydro customers will see yet another increase in rates due to rejigging the delivery charge system to the detriment of those of us outside the cities. So much for Sir Adam Beck’s 100-year vision of “Power to the People.”

Speaking of Adam Beck and his connection to water power, the Ontario Clean Air Alliance recently released data showing Cornwall’s local utility has the lowest average bills in the province. They buy their power from Hydro Quebec. The same chart shows Hydro One bills as the most expensive for low density, medium density and seasonal. Hydro One’s urban rate isn’t far behind, only surpassed by Toronto Hydro.

During a meeting with ag leaders at the International Plowing Match, we heard expensive electricity is one of the biggest challenges on the farm. The government finally realized the impact of their electricity prices and touted a relief plan in the Throne Speech. But, this is just a Band-Aid and prices will continue to rise. In fact, the impacts of taking HST off electricity bills will be countered by the coming carbon tax on natural gas and other commodities. There is no doubt paying the bills is more expensive with this government.

The Premier, who claimed to be listening to the people, heard their reaction during her plowing match speech.

Understandably, people are booing as 567,000 electricity users are in arrears. That’s 94,000 more than in 2013. Isolating just Hydro One customers, 225,952 are in arrears. With the provincial giant having 1.3 million customers, that’s an astonishing 17 per cent who can’t pay their bills. Surely, this should speak to there being a problem.

One of those in arrears is a farmer in the riding who received a bill for $21.12 in electricity and $1,301.73 for delivery. Or, there is the case of a resident who is doing everything right – 1,300-square-foot home, new high efficiency furnace, new air conditioner, natural gas dryer, and natural gas water heater. His $400 bill is double that of only a year ago.

Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator has noted a drop in electricity use and a startling decrease in industrial use.

As prices went up earlier this year, we’re told, because of decreased demand, government signed more contracts for expensive wind and solar power. And we know, over 90 per cent of successful bidders attended high-priced Liberal fundraisers.

There are many reasons people across Ontario are afraid to open their electricity bill.