By ANTONELLA ARTUSO, Queen’s Park Bureau Chief Toronto Sun
Residential electricity prices will rise by 46% over the next five years, but be offset by a new 10% hydro benefit, the McGuinty government says.
The province’s fall economic statement says there are two reasons for the growing bills – the move to pricier but cleaner energy like solar and wind and an investment in electricity infrastructure and generation.
“While absolutely necessary, these investments are increasing electricity costs,” the statement says.
The government will introduce an Ontario Clean Energy Benefit as of Jan. 1 that will reduce the bills of eligible residental farm and small business consumers by 10% a month for the next five years.
The 10% comes off the entire bill, not just rates, and includes the distribution and harmonized sales tax. Rates will continue to rise.
All homeowners, including those who purchased energy price plans, are eligible. The average family would save about $150 a year, the government says.
Businesses that use 250,000 kWh a year or less also get the hydro price cut saving about $1,716 a year, and farms would save about $2,052 a year Premier Dalton McGuinty said in the Legislature that Ontarians will view this break as “good news” in economically challenging times.
Tory MPP Peter Shurman said the government’s decision is behaving like a guy deeply in debt who spends $50 he finds in a jacket pocket on beer with his buddies.
PC Leader Tim Hudak has called for the government to wrap up the debt repayment charge on the hydro bills, and to rethink its Green Energy Act which he argues is social rather than economic policy.
NDP MPP Andrea Horwath has been campaigning to get the government to remove the provincial portion of the HST from hydro bills, which adds 8% to the bill.
The fall economic statement puts the size of the provincial deficit this year at $18.7 billion, less than projected in the government’s spring budget.
Tory MPP Norm Miller said Thursday that the Liberal government’s economic plan will leave a legacy debt of $20,000 per Ontarian.
Miller said Ontario under the Liberals has under performed economically compared to other provinces, and has been shedding well-paying private sector manufacturing jobs by the tens of thousands.
McGuinty said that Ontarians understand that the economic difficulties began outside the province with a world-wide recession, and that his government’s stimulus spending has built bridges and roads, schools, court houses and hospitals across the province while creating 300,000 jobs.
Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party of Ontario, said the government should be offering citizens grants and loans to make their homes more energy efficient.
“I think the most appropriate long-term solution to rising hydro rates is an aggressive energy efficiency and conservation plan because it saves us money today, tomorrow and 10 years from now,” Schreiner said. “Otherwise, we’re just going to be creating more debt.”