We’d ask whether anyone in Premier Dalton McGuinty’s government is keeping track of the cumulative impact of electricity price increases on Ontarians, but the answer is obvious.
The answer is no. Instead, McGuinty’s strategy seems to be to low ball each new hike as just a few more bucks and hope people don’t notice.
The latest is the recent decision by the Ontario Energy Board to permit utilities to boost their rate of return to 9.85% from 8.01%. That’s a potential $240 million increase in revenues benefitting public and private shareholders who invest in utilities.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says it will cost the average Ontario consumer $60 more a year — the OEB estimates just over $15, tops — tucked into the delivery charge on his or her hydro bill.
Whatever the increase, it’s just the latest in a series of electricity hikes that are pounding consumers’ wallets.
Ontario’s new “smart meter” system, based on time-of-use electricity rates and now being rolled out across the province, is raising hydro bills for most customers.
Then there’s the extra whack to rates caused by McGuinty’s imposition of the 13% Harmonized Sales Tax July 1. That added the 8% Ontario sales tax to the 5% federal GST people were already paying for electricity.
McGuinty’s Green Energy Act is beginning to hit hydro rates as electricity consumers pay more for wind and solar energy, which require huge, 20-year public subsidies to attract investors.
Given all these money grabs, even the small, special purpose charge of $4 per year the government charges to hydro consumers for conservation programs hurts.
None of the above increases factor in the eventual cost of putting a price on carbon dioxide emissions through a cap-and-trade system, which McGuinty supports through Ontario’s participation in the Western Climate Initiative, with Quebec, B.C., Manitoba and several U.S. states.
Last spring, energy experts predicted the cost of electricity in Ontario will rise about 25% by the end of 2011 alone.
To be sure, rate hikes are needed to upgrade Ontario’s aging hydro infrastructure and both the government and consumers have inherited problems such as paying off the old Ontario Hydro stranded debt.
That said, how can seniors on fixed incomes possibly cope with a 25% increase on their electricity bills by the end of next year — just for starters?
For that matter, who in Ontario expects a 25% raise by then?
Finally, skyrocketing electricity rates are the last thing we need in the middle of a still-fragile economic recovery in a province especially hard hit by the recession.
Maybe McGuinty needs to get out of his office more and talk to real people about the financial impact of paying ever higher electricity rates, auto insurance premiums and 8% more for electricity, gasoline, home heating and hundreds of other goods and services through the HST.
Because he doesn’t seem to realize the suffering it’s causing.