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Hydro bills shouldn’t fund failed policies

By Rod Jackson

‘What a difference 10 years makes.’ – Ontario Liberal Party, Dec. 3, 2013.

Over the past 10 years, Ontario energy rates have skyrocketed. Specifically, rates have tripled from 4.3 ¢/ kWh to 12.9 ¢/ kWh, for the peak time-of-use price.

Even on off-peak prices, rates have essentially doubled to 7.2 ¢/ kWh. In the same spirit of escalating costs, the liberal government has committed to increasing energy rates an additional 42% within five years.

That is why I have launched the ‘Say No to Gouging Campaign’.

My office is accepting copies of Barrie residents’ hydro bills. I will submit the bills to the Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli with an invoice attached and ask him to respond directly to constituents.

In response to a potential spring election, the energy minister just promised to remove the debt retirement charge that the Progressive Conservatives contend was paid off years ago from hydro bills. There’s nothing like an imminent election to motivate you to do the right thing.

This comes after a recent announcement to increase rates by 0.6 cents per kilowatt hour and during peak hours to 13.5 cents starting May 1, 2014. This magic math is nothing more than lighting your house on fire and then acting like the hero for putting it out.

Ontario has the highest energy prices in North America. Last year, our bills absorbed the Liberal’s $1.1 billion gas plant cancellation fee. The decision to cancel is plagued by questionable ethics. In fact, the government is under investigation by the OPP anti-rackets squad for ‘breach of trust’ for deleting e-mails to coverup the final costs to taxpayers.

The energy minister implied that consumers forgo Tim Horton’s coffee to pay for his government’s mess.

I have been hearing from constituents all winter who said they simply cannot afford their bills. These energy cost increases have immensely strained businesses, families living on the margins and vulnerable people.

The last decade of escalating costs has resulted in record unemployment; reliance on social assistance has increase by 40%, and on disability by 50%.

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Ontario said that peak-hour rates unfairly burden people with disabilities. If personal support workers come during peak hours, laundry is done at the highest rates. Heat can exacerbate symptoms, so air conditioning in the summer isn’t a choice. People who rely on electrical assistive devices also get dinged by peak hour rates.

Yet, there is no tax credit or relief for people living with disabilities.

Consumers have been hit with smart meters, overpriced energy contracts, money-losing exports, redundant government agencies like the Ontario Power Authority, and the list goes on.

Power bills shouldn’t be used to fund failed Liberal energy policies. Instead, the government should take steps to make sure Ontario’s power system as efficient, dependable and delivered at the best price.

Rod Jackson is Barrie’s MPP.