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Ontario’s electricity bills are the fastest rising in North America, with rates increasing year over year. While the government talks about “relief,” it is not doing anything substantial to help.

Here is the news from Eastern Ontario, as reported in the Brockville Recorder and Times.

Leeds-Grenville councillors say rural electricity rates are negatively impacting their constituents, farmers and businesses, although Burnbrae Farms - one business cited by council members as a victim of high rates - says electricity costs were not behind its recent decision to expand its operations out of province. The Burnbrae operation near Lyn is shown on Tuesday morning, Feb. 7, 2017. (Ronald Zajac/The Recorder and Times)

Leeds-Grenville councillors say rural electricity rates are negatively impacting their constituents, farmers and businesses, although Burnbrae Farms – one business cited by council members as a victim of high rates – says electricity costs were not behind its recent decision to expand its operations out of province. The Burnbrae operation near Lyn is shown on Tuesday morning, Feb. 7, 2017. (Ronald Zajac/The Recorder and Times)

Frustration at Ontario’s high hydro rates boiled over at a United Counties meeting Tuesday as mayors railed against an “out-of-touch” provincial government that is indifferent to the plight of rural Ontarians.

“Seniors are losing their homes, seniors are going to food kitchens,” said Mayor David Gordon of North Grenville, who said he knows of 89- and 90-year-old farmers in his township who have to continue to work because they can’t afford their electricity bills.

Gordon said that if Americans were experiencing the same increasing power rates as in Ontario they would be demonstrating and rioting in the streets.

“Up here it’s just ‘deary, deary me’,” he said. “What’s going to happen when somebody dies because they don’t have any heat?”

Augusta Mayor Doug Malanka said the government has failed to consider the unintended consequences of high hydro rates.

As an example, Malanka cited the Prescott Curling Club, which has complained to the Ministry of Sport, Tourism and Culture that its escalating power bills put the future of the club in doubt.

Malanka said the club did extensive energy-saving upgrades to its rink several years ago. Despite this, the club’s power bill increased by $13,000 over an 18-month-period, bringing it to $25,000 annually, he said, noting that the rink operates only six months a year.

Club president Ron Whitehorne said the hydro bill now accounts for half of the club’s budget, and the rates continue to rise despite the $120,000 spent on renovations to make the rink more energy-efficient.

The rising rates, coupled with the depletion of the club’s capital reserves to pay for the improvements, has put a real squeeze on the volunteer-run club, Whitehorne said.

Malanka said counties mayors raised the hydro issues with Liberal MPP Bob Delaney, parliamentary assistant to the energy minister, at a meeting during last week’s Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference. Delaney was initially defensive about the mayors’ complaints, Malanka said, but he later agreed to a followup meeting with counties’ representatives. Warden Robin Jones agreed to contact Delaney to arrange a followup meeting.

Gordon said that the Liberal government has lost touch with the average Ontarian.

“These people living in Toronto don’t care because they are living in their fancy condo on the 27th floor,” he said.

Rideau Lakes Mayor Ron Holman, who chairs ROMA, said the Ontario government needs to set “predictable, prudent, long-term” hydro rates so that businesses and residents can plan for the future. Instead, the government seems to be taking an ad-hoc approach to hydro by fiddling with rates in response to the “flavour of the day,” he said.

Holman said Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is continuing to promise “adjustments” to hydro rates in the next budget.

“What does that mean? I have no idea. What assurance does that give to individuals or businesses that want to come to our community? It doesn’t,” he said.

Several mayors pointed to Burnbrae Farm’s decision to build new hen houses in Quebec, instead of Ontario, as a consequence of high energy costs. They were basing their comments on a news report that said the egg producer, which is centred in the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, was expanding to Quebec to escape Ontario’s hydro rates.

But Margaret Hudson, president of Burnbrae Farms Ltd., flatly denied that hydro rates played a part in the decision.

“The cost of electricity was never a factor in our decision on where to locate our new farm,” Hudson said in a statement Tuesday.

Read the full article here.

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