Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli has ‘good news’ for us: The 33 per cent more that we will have to pay for electricity in the next three years is lower than the provincial Liberals’ previous electricity rate increase forecasts. Along with those glad tidings is the announcement of next year’s 9.6 per cent increase. But it doesn’t stop there.
Perhaps thinking it best to rip the bandage off all at once, we learned from the energy minister’s recent report on the province’s Long Term Energy Plan that, after five years, the increase will be 42 per cent, 54 per cent over the next 10 years and a whopping 68 per cent in 20 years – down from a projected 82 per cent increase. That still means that a generation to come will be paying a rate tied to a debt they had nothing to do with.
It would be hard to ignore the fact that already in the past decade, the rate has doubled, and tripled in some cases. We might need that lump of coal in our Christmas stocking after all, because heating with electricity will become unaffordable.
This seems a rather counterintuitive way of heading into a widely expected spring election. So, are the Liberals tired of running the government? Because, unless they can explain why it is a ‘good thing’ rates that are already among the highest, if not the highest, in North America are going up, it looks more like they are setting themselves up to step across the floor of the Legislature to the Opposition benches.
How’s this for a catchy election slogan coming from Chiarelli’s report: “Significant ratepayer savings will be realized as a result of reduced feed-in-tariff prices, the ability to dispatch wind generation, the amended (Samsung) agreement and the decision to defer new nuclear.” It’s not going to fit on a campaign button.
Certainly, they can lay out an explanation for the ballooning increases, but the reality is most people are not going to hear all the small details about keeping Dalton McGuinty’s green-energy election promise to do away with coal-burning energy plants and switch to nuclear, bio-fuels, wind turbines and solar energy sources. Or, even as Chiarelli did, lay blame on the Mike Harris government’s previous handling of the energy file.
The Liberal government would have to explain how they went into a plan for wind and solar powered electricity without a concrete plan of action, leaving it destined to falter and cost ratepayers more money, with subsidies to wind farms that produce an oversupply of electricity, which then has to be sold off at a lower rate. That “debt retirement charge” on the monthly electricity is evidence of our having to pay for this government’s failure to effectively manage the critical details of their green energy plan.
What will really drive public attitude, though, is resentment over the $1.1 billion cost in penalties following cancellation of the construction of two gas plants, the result of political gamesmanship on the part of the Liberals trying to win a majority in the last provincial election.
Already there are people in this province who cannot afford the monthly average $125 cost of electricity. How will it be when the average reaches $167 in 2016?
Does this government really think smart meters that show how much electricity your neighbour is using will cushion the cost, especially now that they have increased by 7.5 per cent the rate for off-peak hours?
For the 30 per cent of Ontario residents who are renters – 55 per cent of residents in Toronto – among those whose utility payments are not covered in their rent, will the province provide incentives for landlords to replace old fridges, stoves and water heaters with energy efficient ones? Will they subsidize the cost to replace incandescent bulbs with expensive low-energy use LED ones? And what protection will this government provide for the two million retirees, most on a fixed income? The grant program that allows a once a year assist for low-income earners to cover electricity bills is not enough of an answer.
We should know within a matter of months whether this government has truly underestimated the anger and resentment of Ontario’s voters.