By Christina Blizzard, Toronto Sun
The two biggest issues in next year’s election will be the HST and the price of electricity. As consumers open their hydro bills this month, they’re getting sticker shock from the extra 8% the HST has added.
Last week, both Opposition parties were hammering at the Liberals for other sneaky costs that have been quietly added to their already ballooning bills.
Andrea Horwath and the New Democrats were especially effective.
First, they raised the issue of the $60 million that was paid to Bruce Power in 2009 for energy they didn’t produce.
This added an extra $15 per household per year.
On Thursday, they revealed utility companies had been allowed to boost their expected profit margins to 9.85% from 8.01% — although utilities actually came in at around 3.32% last year — by the Ontario Energy Board. The hike is estimated to cost consumers $240 million annually.
While the government claims rate hikes will pay for new transmission, that just isn’t the case.
Horwath pointed out this hike will simply go from our wallets to corporate profits.
Then there’ve been the Smart Meters. They were supposed to be a tool to help families manage their bills.
Instead, they’ve become a weapon — a blunt instrument to batter the wallets of consumers at a time when we can least afford it.
The root of the problem is the government’s “obsession to prematurely retire Ontario’s coal plants,” says Energy Probe’s executive director Lawrence Solomon.
Where decades ago, coal plants were dirty and EP opposed them, they’ve become much cleaner and most harmful emissions have been removed.
“Coal has become a very clean and inexpensive form of power, but this is what the government has decided to target out of a misplaced fear of carbon dioxide,” Solomon said.
Germany, the U.S., the U.K., India and China are building coal plants, he said.
Solomon said the government is wasting vast amounts of money on transmission to bring remote wind and solar energy to urban markets and should end subsidies to unsustainable forms of generation.
“If the government simply put the power system on a market basis, we would see rates drop,” he said.
Cash-strapped consumers will reach a point where they just can’t pay their bill, Solomon said.
This has happened in the U.K., where energy costs are a leading contributor to poverty.
“If the province keeps going along this way, there will be many people who think of themselves as middle class who all of a sudden realize they can’t keep paying these ever-escalating fuel bills, and there will be subsidy programs put in place to deal with fuel poverty,” he said.
Premier Dalton McGuinty likes to brag about how we got through the long, hot summer without worrying about energy shortages.
The flip side of that coin is the economic downturn and the decimation of the manufacturing sector means demand for electricity has tanked.
If the manufacturing sector ever comes back the demand for electricity will soar.
The only thing growing in the energy sector is the number of bloated bureaucracies. Where once we had just Ontario Hydro, we now have Ontario Power Generation, Hydro One, the Independent Electricity System Operator, the Ontario Power Authority and the Ontario Energy Board.
PC Leader Tim Hudak reported the OPA has gone from 15 to 300 bureaucrats.
“They’ve not produced the long-term energy plan yet, despite five years on the job, but they seem more than happy to be the propaganda arm for your expensive energy experiments,” Hudak told McGuinty in the House Thursday.
We pay through the nose for private companies to get an almost 10% rate hike. We pay six-figure salaries to fatcat bureaucrats. We pay for a flawed plan to close coal plants.
Fatcats get fatter. We get poorer.
Thank your government next October.