New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns says when it comes to electricity prices in Ontario, the worst is yet to come.
The Toronto-Danforth member said Friday that ratepayers should brace themselves for ever higher prices as greater chunks of the public power system are privatized.
“We need to stop the privatization of our system. Privatization has cost us a lot,” Tabuns told reporters, referring to greater pressure to put local utilities into private hands, which in turn will be looking for substantial return on their investment.
“People are going to get stuck paying back those investors who put in their hundreds of millions or billions to take over those utilities,” he said.
Starting Saturday, an additional 1.7 per cent or about $2 will be added to the average monthly household bill. Time-of-use customers will pay 7.7 cents a kilowatt hour for off-peak, 11.4 cents for mid-peak and 14 cents for peak usage.
Jennifer Beaudry, a spokeswoman Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli, said Ontario’s electricity rates are competitive with similar jurisdictions in North America.
“Ontario’s residential rates are forecast to rise by 2.8 per cent annually over the next 20 years, according to the National Energy Board, that’s less than in most other large Canadian provinces,” she stated in an email.
“The fact is that Ontario has a hybrid system — a healthy mix of generation sources that help drive our economy and create tens of thousands of jobs for Ontarians . . . Our investments in our electricity grid has played a major role in helping Ontario eliminate coal-fired generation and create a clean, affordable and reliable electricity system.”
The Liberal government has embraced the findings of a blue-ribbon panel that recommended selling some of Hydro One, the provincial transmission company.
Tabuns said until government puts the brakes on privatization, the only thing ratepayer can do is conserve by doing their laundry, dishes and so on during off-peak hours.
Off-peak hours are all weekends and holidays as well as weekdays from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Mid-peak hours are weekdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Peak hours are weekdays 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The government has projected that power rates will rise by about 40 per cent over the next four years, which critics says will result in Ontario industries paying at least double that charged in neighbouring jurisdictions.
“Every year, my colleagues and I meet with the Ontario Mining Association, and every year, they have the same issues with your government. Ontario mining companies are faced with some of the highest energy costs in North America,” acting Progressive Conservative Leader Jim Wilson said in the legislature this week.
Wilson blamed in part the rise in electricity prices on the overly general pension plan in the public power system, citing a report issued in August.
“The report, conducted by pension expert Jim Leech, revealed that Ontario taxpayers are contributing $5 for every $1 that employees contribute. In fact, it’s worse: Hydro One employees only contribute 12 cents of every dollar in their pension,” said Wilson, who accused the government of doing nothing to address these so-called unsustainable pension plans.
- With files from The Canadian Press