Chapter activist Roy Brady
The Council of Canadians Peterborough-Kawarathas chapter says ratepayers will have to pay billions of dollars more later as a result of the Ontario government’s decision to cut hydro rates.
Yesterday, the Ontario Liberal government of Premier Kathleen Wynne – at about 23 per cent in the polls and facing an election on or before June 7, 2018 – announced that it would cut hydro rates by 17 per cent starting this summer.
The Canadian Press reports, “Soaring electricity bills in Ontario will see an average 17-per-cent cut this summer, a year before the provincial Liberals bid for re-election, but those savings will ultimately cost ratepayers billions in extra interest payments. Wynne announced the savings March 2, as well as further measures for rural and low-income customers, but acknowledged that the bill for the across-the-board relief will eventually come due for ratepayers. Electricity bills in the province have roughly doubled in the last decade, rising faster than inflation since 2010, and have sparked increasing anger among Ontarians, leading to plummeting approval ratings for Wynne.”
The Peterborough Examiner highlights, “Activist Roy Brady of the Council of Canadians Peterborough Chapter said the reductions come after costs had ballooned far more than they should have in the first place. The government made errors in the past ‘and we’re being asked to pay for them’, he said. ‘It’s just extra charges laid upon ratepayers’, he said, referring to having to pay more later. Brady said the government-controlled generation rate remains too high, particularly for peak use. ‘That just isn’t working and is costing people a lot of money.’ The privatization of Hydro One is ‘getting more difficult all the time’ and could lead to real cost increases down the road, he added.”
In October 2015, Wynne confirmed that 60 per cent of Hydro One, the publicly-owned provincial electrical transmission and distribution utility, would be sold to raise $9 billion to pay down the provincial debt and to fund public transit and infrastructure projects. Shares in the utility first went on sale in November 2015. As of December 2016, the provincial Liberal government had sold about 30 per cent of the shares in Hydro One and had raised about $3.8 billion.
The Council of Canadians opposes this privatization saying public ownership is the best option, there is no evidence that private ownership leads to cost savings, ratepayers could face higher costs as transnational corporations buy shares in the utility, and that Hydro One turns over about $750 million in revenue annually to the province that is reinvested in schools, hospitals and other critical infrastructure.
Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom comments, “Of all the maladroit moves Wynne has made as premier, privatizing Hydro One is the worst. It creates no economic benefit for the province. Nor does it help the government’s finances. In fact, as the Financial Accountability Officer and others have pointed out, the loss of lucrative Hydro One dividends will ultimately cost the provincial treasury more than it gains.”
The Peterborough-Kawarthas chapter has also opposed the sale of Peterborough Distribution Inc. (PDI), the city-owned utility that distributes electricity in Peterborough, Lakefield and Norwood, to Hydro One.
Brady has stated that the sale would mean a loss of local control, accountability and would likely lead to higher electricity rates. He says, “Selling off publicly owned assets like PDI is about nothing more than making a few people a lot richer at the expense of everyone else.” An Environics Research poll released in April 2016 found that 93 per cent of Peterborough residents oppose the sale of PDI.
Despite this, Peterborough City Council voted in December 2016 to sell the utility.
It is estimated that it will be a nine month process – meaning sometime in September – before Hydro One assumes control of PDI. The Peterborough-Kawarthas chapter continues to challenge this sale. The next municipal election in Peterborough will take place on October 22, 2018.