Opinion

Editorial

Wynne’s out of shells in hydro rate shell game

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne at Queen's Park in Toronto on Tuesday, February 21, 2017. (Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun)

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne at Queen's Park in Toronto on Tuesday, February 21, 2017. (Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun)

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne knows if she’s to have any chance of winning next year’s provincial election, she has to do something about Ontario’s outrageously high electricity rates.

The issue has become a flashpoint for Ontarians, fed up with rapidly increasing electricity costs that, as of 2016, were the highest in Canada, according to a Hydro Quebec survey of major Canadian cities.

Public fury is aggravated by the fact that no matter how much people try to conserve electricity, their hydro bills keep relentlessly rising.

The Liberals have created a perfect storm on electricity pricing, resulting in a Catch-22.

The more people conserve energy, the more Wynne’s government — the most indebted sub-sovereign borrower in the world — has to raise electricity rates to make up for the monies lost due to conservation.

That explains Wynne’s conversion on the road to Damascus last week as her government made it illegal for electrical utilities to shut off people’s hydro for non-payment in winter.

This even though her government was content to do nothing all last year when it knew 60,000 Ontarians were behind in their electricity bills at of the end of 2015.

All that’s changed now is that the government is one year closer to next year’s election, so suddenly it’s all concerned about people who have been driven into energy poverty by high and rapidly rising electricity rates.

The other problem is that, again as the world’s most indebted sub-sovereign borrower, all the Wynne government can do when it comes to hydro rates is play shell games with public money.

For example, the Wynne government is now using general tax revenues to pay for the $1 billion cost of removing the 8% provincial portion of the HST from electricity bills, as of Jan. 1.

But all that means is the Wynne government is robbing Peter to pay Paul, since all the money to provide the electricity rebates is coming from the same people who, as hydro ratepayers, also pay provincial taxes.

The Wynne government has also talked about using up to $1.3 billion of cap and trade revenues, which will start coming in to government coffers this year, to subsidize electricity bills.

But all that means is Ontarians, who will be paying higher prices for most goods and services as a result of cap and trade in their role as consumers, will be subsidizing their own electricity bills as hydro ratepayers.

What undercuts all of Wynne’s machinations to lower hydro bills is that at the end of the day, there is only one taxpayer, regardless of whether the government is taking their money through provincial taxes, cap and trade costs or hydro bills.

Basically, Wynne has run out of shells when it comes to playing shell games with public money and electricity rates.

Voters need to remember that during next year’s election.