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Canadian Publications Agreement No. 40727545

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Provincial Government tables Fair Hydro Plan

 

March 10, 2017

 

BY TERRY GILLIS

 

At the invitation of our M.P.P.’s office, the media was given the opportunity to request a one-on-one conversation with the Hon. Jeff Leal regarding the Provincial Liberal’s Fair Hydro Plan announced on Thursday morning.

Many residents, small business owners and farmers in our rural areas have been struggling with the rising costs of electricity. Our municipal governments are no different.

Last week, Premier Wynne announced her government’s plan to reduce hydro costs for Ontarians. According to the provincial Liberal’s, the plan is designed to decrease the average residential hydro bill by 25 per cent and cap bill increases for the next four years. The average 25 per cent decrease includes the already implemented eight percent reduction (implemented Jan. 1).

As part of the announcement, Wynne said that many small businesses and farms would also benefit from the initiative and that “people with low incomes and those living in eligible rural communities would receive even greater reductions to their electricity bills.”

When asked about which rural communities were “eligible” for the greater reductions to their electricity bills, Peterborough M.P.P., Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Minister responsible for Small Business, the Hon. Jeff Leal said that “all Hydro One users will benefit from a decrease in delivery charges. Hydro One has “broadened” its Rural and Northern Ontario designations. The previous 8 per cent discount was applied to RRI customers only. Now, both RR1 and RR2 Hydro One customers will receive the discounts and lower delivery charges. All 800,000 rural and northern customers will receive the delivery charge reduction.”

In her announcement, Wynne stated that the reduction will begin this summer. According to Leal, the Liberal government is pushing for legislation to be passed before the spring Parliamentary session ends. “We’re hoping to get all the parties on board to get this passed by the end of June,” said Leal.

Over the past few months, local municipalities have been struggling with their rising electricity costs as well. Leal said, “I am very sensitive to the costs of hydro to municipalities. I have visited all five rural municipalities and am aware of their challenges with hockey rinks, arenas and such. Our government has been working on refinancing the global infrastructure and the global adjustment charges will reflect this refinancing.”

Our local municipal electricity costs range from approximately $100,000 to $500,000 annually. These expenditures are inevitably passed on to taxpayers.

The Township of Douro-Dummer paid $187,441.73 in 2016 and has budgeted $172,380.89 for 2017.

The Municipality of Trent Lakes spent $93,786.39 for electricity in 2016 and is budgeting for $102,600 for 2017.

Selwyn Township (the largest of the three municipalities) incurred $470,454 in hydro costs for 2016 and is budgeting approximately $525,115.00 for 2017 (an increase of 12 per cent).

Because the Liberal’s Fair Hydro Plan was not announced prior to municipal Budgets, the decrease has not been calculated for 2017. The decrease (if realized) will be seen next year.

When asked where the money to cover the extra $1.4 billion a year in interest charges will come from, Leal said that the liberal government has a number of capital investments spread out over a longer period of time.