Category Archives: Energy/Natural Resources

What should be done to make Ontario electricity rates more affordable

There is far more that the Wynne government can do to help Ontarians struggling with sky-high hydro bills. But will they do what needs to be done?

It will come as no surprise to Ontarians that according to a recent Nanos Research poll, the cost of hydro was the most important issue for 20.5 per cent of voters, eclipsing the usual suspects such as health care (15.1 per cent), jobs and the economy (9.6 per cent) and high taxes (7.3 per cent). And it will also come as no surprise that recent polls suggest that the popularity of Ontario’s Liberal Government is taking a beating because of the issue.

Undoubtedly, the government is frustrated by the electorate’s focus on the cost side of the hydro file and its relative lack of interest in what the Liberals see as a series of environmentally friendly energy policies (the closure of the coal plants, the Green Energy program, increased “clean power” imports from Quebec, etc.) that have dramatically reduced smog days and made Ontario a leader in North America in fighting climate change.

But if the Liberals are puzzled by the public’s refusal to give them much credit for their green energy initiatives, they only have to look as far their crassly political cancellations of the Oakville and Mississauga gas plants to understand why the public isn’t cutting them much slack on the hydro file. Politics is nothing if not a blood sport and if you want political credit for making tough decisions on a file, then it is probably best not to engage in a billion dollar’s worth  of political opportunism (the cost of re-locating the two gas plants) on that very same file. After all, that’s a billion dollars added to the hydro bills of the very voters that were already paying for the elimination of cheap, coal-generated power!

That said, it appears that Kathleen Wynne has gotten the message  (high hydro bills are “my mistake”) and has promised to announce new rate reduction measures over and above the already announced 8% HST rebate. Continue reading

Is a flat rate option for hydro coming to Ontario?

 

Ontario Morning News Round-up and Legislative  Agenda for Nov. 29.

Ontario News Round-Up for November 29.

  • On Monday, Ontario Energy Minister Glen Thibeault raised the possibility that consumers could opt out of time-of-use pricing for flat rates or other billing plans. Details will come in the government’s updated long-term energy plan being developed now with input from the industry and consumers. It will be released next spring, with any measures taking until after the 2018 election to be implemented.
  • Ontario will become the first province to launch pilot projects for self-driving cars. There will be two groups involved in the trials. BlackBerry’s QNX software development subsidiary and the University of Waterloo will work with Ford Motor Co’s Lincoln cars, while Erwin Hymer Group will test one of Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz vans, according to an Ontario government statement.
  • In a report tabled at Queen’s Park Monday, the Financial Accountability Officer projected a budget deficit of $5.2 billion this year and $2.6 billion in 2017-18. That’s in contrast to the government’s fall economic statement that forecast a $4.3 billion shortfall in 2016-17 and a balanced budget in 2017-18. The budget watchdog operates independently of the government and reports directly to the legislature.
  • According to the Toronto Star, officials in PC leader Patrick Brown’s office misled former Star reporter Richard Brennan over whether former MPP Garfield Dunlop was offered a job to resign his seat in order to allow Brown to contest a by-election and enter the legislature.

Ontario Op-Eds and Editorials

  • Martin Regg Cohn, citing Air Miles’ practice of wiping out points if they haven’t been used in five years, says that Ontario should ban the practice as they did the expiration date for gift cards.
  • In an editorial, the Star says that the City of Toronto’s anti-poverty plan needs to be fully funded to deal with the City’s growing poverty problem.

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Search up-to-date Canada Fact Check databases for the full text, approval status, committee hearings and other details of all Ontario bills from the current session here!___________________________________________________________________________________

Projected Ontario Legislative Business for Tuesday, Nov. 29

Main Chamber Business

9:00 a.m. – Third Reading of Bill 28, An Act to amend the Children’s Law Reform Act, the Vital Statistics Act and various other Acts respecting parentage and related registrations. Watch Live!

10:45 a.m. – Question Period. Watch Live!

3:30 p.m. – Second Reading of Bill 70, An Act to implement Budget measures and to enact and amend various statutes. Watch Live!

Ontario Legislature Committee meetings

9:00 p.m. – The Standing Committee on Government Agencies will meet to consider intended appointments.

4:00 p. m. – The Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills will meet to consider Bill 47, An Act to amend the Consumer Protection Act, 2002 with respect to rewards points. A full list of presenters is here.

What’s really behind Ontario’s rising electricity prices

hydro-lines

Ontario’s high hydro prices reflect a breakdown in the Ontario Government’s electricity planning process resulting in contradictory policies that add to costs.

On September 12, the Ontario Government announced in its Throne Speech that it was rebating the provincial portion of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) to residential and small business electricity users. The initiative is expected to cost $1 billion/yr. and is funded out of the provincial tax base. On September 15, Bill 13, the Ontario Rebate for Electricity Consumers Act, was tabled to implement the initative.

What the initiative means is that as of January 1, 2017, the Province will reduce residential and small business electricity bills by an amount equivalent to the 8% provincial portion of the HST.

 

Why the HST rebate benefits the affluent more than average hydro users

What is often overlooked is that the HST rebate provides a benefit proportionate to electricity spending meaning that the more you spend on electricity, the bigger your rebate. And, of course, the bigger your residence, the more you are likely to spend on electricity.

On September 27, Ontario’s Financial Accountability Officer (FAO) issued a report showing that the burden of home energy costs, as measured by share of income spent on home energy, falls more heavily on lower income Ontario households in spite of their lower overall energy spending. In 2014, the lowest-income 20% spent on average 5.9% of their pre-tax income on home energy, while the highest-income 20% spent only 1.7%.

Continue reading

Bay Street and the Hydro One Sale

Of the many options available to the Ontario government to finance its $130 billion infrastructure plan, selling 60% of Hydro One is pretty much the worst.

Of the many options available to the Ontario government to finance its $130 billion infrastructure plan, selling 60% of Hydro One is pretty much the worst.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Ontario government is making a serious mistake in its plan to sell off a majority interest in Hydro One. According to a report from Ontario’s new Financial Accountability Officer, the province will be in even worse financial shape after the planned sale of 60 per cent of Hydro One than it is now.

Even former TD Bank CEO Ed Clark, the driving force behind the sale, readily admits that there will be significant forgone revenue from the sale of Hydro One down the road. But he, like Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, dismisses this on the grounds that the  partial sale of Hydro One is needed to help pay for Ontario’s plan to spend $130.5 billion over 10 years on transit, bridges, highways and other infrastructure.

Unfortunately, while it is undoubtedly true that the planned investments in Ontario infrastructure are badly needed, it is also true that of the various options available to the province to pay for its ten-year, $130.5 billion infrastructure investment, selling 60% of Hydro One is pretty much the worst option.

So why is the Ontario government selling off one if its most valuable assets in what seems like a clear cut case of “short-term gain for long-term pain”?

The sell-off of Hydro One is yet another chapter in the ongoing saga of an Ontario government mesmerized by private sector promises that a healthy dose of private sector, market “discipline” will somehow translate into the public good.

The names are familiar: eHealth, Ornge, the Mississauga and Oakville private gas plants, and public-private hospitals and transit – to name just a few.

The problem? Each and everyone turned out to be a train wreck of truly monumental proportions.

And now Hydro One. Continue reading