The Chronical Journal
Posted: Friday, July 10, 2015 6:00 am
A NEW report from the Thunder Bay and Ontario chambers of commerce builds upon a new Leger poll that may well signal the tipping point for provincial energy policy with its soaring costs.
While the chambers reflect the concerns of business electricity costs — alleging some can no longer afford the bills and will close — they acknowledge the worry of consumers, too, especially here in the North.
Indeed, as Leger has found, 91 per cent of Northern Ontario respondents indicated they were concerned that electricity prices will impact the economic health of the province. Simply put, everyone who uses increasingly expensive Ontario electricity has less and less money to spend elsewhere.
Further, 90.8 per cent of northern respondents also indicated that they are concerned rising prices will impact their disposable income. For many it has already done so in significant ways. Household budgets are reworked to pay for every increase in hydro bills — and there have been many in recent years, whether for power itself or transmission.
Oddly, the chambers then turn around and say the debt retirement charge, set to come off consumers’ power bills in January, should be left on because all other users will have to pay it through 2018. Given the chambers’ position all Ontarians are paying too much, why don’t they recommend the DRC come off all bills now.
By some accounts the old Ontario debt inherited by the new hydro conglomerate has been paid. The fact no one knows for sure is a clear indication of the complexity of provincial hydro policy.
The auditor general found the legislation allows use of the DRC beyond strictly retiring the old debt, which is why it’s still not paid. It didn’t help when the Tories froze electricity rates in 2002. They were activated by the Liberals two years later and, according to the Tories today, they will continue to increase by 42 per cent between 2013 and 2018.
Power costs in Ontario are no longer sustainable. They are badly straining household budgets, making business think about moving to cheaper electricity locales, and confusing most people with a labyrinth of agencies with the highest percentage of provincial employees on the annual sunshine list.
If this were an election year, electricity would be the issue underlying everything else. By the time the next election comes, the Liberals will have to have made significant improvements in policy and pricing. Otherwise, it won’t matter who’s in power; the province will be an unaffordable place for most to live and do business.