A lot of us can’t afford our electricity bills anymore

By MPP Toby Barrett

There is a growing concern locally and across Ontario.

People are finding they just don’t have the extra money to pay for electricity. I hear it at my offices and I’ve heard it door to door as I canvassed hamlets across Norfolk and Haldimand.

And the dawning of a new year does little to shed light on how government expects families and industry to afford its costly legacy of shaky energy policies.

After seven years of tinkering and backtracking with energy experiments, electricity rates have skyrocketed 75 per cent under this government, and that doesn’t include an additional 8 per cent HST now on bills. Worse still, Mr. McGuinty’s expensive energy schemes – including the smart meter tax machine and the Samsung deal – will soon force bills up another 46 per cent according to this government’s own modest estimates. In dollars and cents, the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters estimate the family electricity bill is going up another $732 a year by 2015.

The Ontario Liberals’ decision to vote down a motion this fall to remove the HST from electricity bills will come back to haunt them –I and my caucus colleagues voted in support.

While we see massive subsidies to green energy developers well above the market price for power – 80.2 cents per kWh for solar vs. 4 cents per kWh for coal – in the end, it’s you and I who pay the price.

There are other jurisdictions that adopted similar buy-high, sell-low approaches, but they are walking away after discovering the policy to be unsustainable and unaffordable.

Spain, for example, found that 2.2 jobs were lost in their broader economy for every job that was created by the subsidies. And Italy’s approach cost 4.8 jobs in the broader economy for every subsidized job created.

In response to the negative impact on job creation, and the cost, many international leaders in green energy are now rushing to slash lucrative subsidies – Germany, the UK and New South Wales, Australia have all joined the line-up to reduce green grants.

Here in Ontario, it’s municipalities that have been lining up to take their shots at changing the costly course of the Green Energy Act. Over the past two months at least 25 municipalities have passed motions asking for government action on the electricity file. Many of them echo the sentiments of a draft resolution sent around by the Municipal Taxpayer Advocacy group, in part to:

remove the PST portion of the electricity bill
limit electricity rate increases to the rate of inflation
restore input on wind and energy from waste
report findings of a Competition Bureau investigation into the Samsung contract.
As well, since last fall a series of resolutions have been tabled in which 75 Ontario municipalities opposed the use of huge wind turbines – requesting a moratorium on new wind power projects until health concerns have been addressed. Last May, Norfolk County approved a motion to support a moratorium on the erection of any industrial wind turbines until rigorous scientific research has been conducted.

As Ontario’s Opposition, we support a moratorium, as well as real choice on time-of-use smart meter pricing, and the naming of a consumer advocate to the Ontario Energy Board.

We can’t afford to do less.