Electricity experiments put rates through the roof

By Toby Barrett MPP

Electricity is arguably an essential responsibility of government. Virtually everything we do involves energy and electricity – without which, much of life as we know it and our economy grinds to a halt.

That’s why it’s so critical when it comes to electricity for government to get it right, and – by contrast – so devastating when government gets it wrong.

After eight years of expensive electricity experiments that have treated energy like a social program rather than an economic program, we are now seeing the inevitable result when we open our hydro bills.

Electricity rates have skyrocketed 75 per cent over the last seven years, not including an additional 8 per cent on HST. Government admits that, in the next five years, bills will go up a further 46 per cent.

We are already having trouble paying current electricity bills – how will we pay for the additional $732 estimated by 2015.

Providing small rebates for the ratepayer are a joke – it’s like a mugger who takes all your money and then gives you back a little for cab fare so you can get home.

As people try to figure out how to pay the bills and still purchase necessities, there is little doubt that rising electricity costs, especially for those who heat with electricity, are forcing families to make difficult decisions.

Calls to my office indicate a growing frustration among residents with the array of missteps that have pushed the rates higher. Calls that criticize so-called smart meters, government’s arbitrary removal of municipal’ powers of decision-making for green energy projects, and unaffordable government subsidies for wind/solar farms.

Locally we see the phase-out of coal produced at 4 cents kWh and the advent of solar at 80.2 cents kWh.

That’s why I’ve joined Opposition Leader Tim Hudak in calling for an end to the signing of heavily subsidized green energy contracts, while supporting the naming of a consumer advocate to the Ontario Energy Board, and the provision of real choice on time-of-use smart meter pricing.

I also echo Hudak’s demand for a forensic audit to determine why Ontario families continue to be charged for a debt that has been paid off. We need clarification as to why Mr. McGuinty plans to charge Ontario ratepayers $1 billion annually over the next six years to pay an Ontario debt that has already been discharged. Ontario families have paid $7.8 billion in debt retirement charges – the Ontario Hydro residual stranded debt was $7.8 billion. The question is why are we still paying and where is the money going?

Adding insult to energy, are recent revelations that Ontario is paying through the teeth to jurisdictions such as Quebec and the United States to dump surplus wind energy. Lucrative green energy contracts mean, if the wind blows, wind-generated power must be accepted on the grid, even when the electricity isn’t needed. That makes no sense – but takes dollars out of our pockets and out of the province.

We cannot afford to continue down the path of green energy at any cost, without consideration of all impacts – environmental and economic. No matter which way the wind blows, it’s time to get right what has gone so expensively wrong.