Prepare Yourself For A Jolt


Prepare yourself for a jolt
By LINDA LEATHERDALE

Today, let me shine a light on more hydro madness.If you live in smaller communities across this province and you’re a Hydro One customer, brace yourself to be zapped by what could be a shocking increase in the cost to deliver electricity to your home.

Municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals better brace themselves, too. Higher hydro bills are on the way, effective April 1, when Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals force the MUSH sector to start paying the fluctuating hourly market price for electricity, instead of the flat-rate regulated price that most households and small businesses now pay.

Sadly, this is no April Fool’s Day joke.

Hospitals and schools that are already struggling and cash-strapped cities, like Toronto, will pay peak day-time hydro prices for water, subways and social housing.

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Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator suggests municipalities shift consumption to the night-time, when the cost is cheaper at 3.8c a kilowatt hour.

That may work for water filtration and sewage plants, but does that mean our kids go to school at night? And hospitals, arenas and fire stations shut down during the day?

Municipalities can also lock into contracts with electricity retailers, but one hydro expert warns that as in many U.S. States that deregulated electricity, hydro prices are heading higher.

“Over the next two decades the government plans to allow private corporations to provide most of the new electricity we require. It also plans to allow these corporations to charge uncapped prices. This means over time electricity costs will rise as electricity prices include more and more unregulated corporate profit,” said John Wilson, an energy consultant and former Hydro One board member.

Wilson warns municipalities will have no other choice but to cut services or hike taxes.

“For a Liberal government that lists education, health and municipalities among its top priorities this is strange behaviour,” said Wilson, pointing out Premier McGuinty broke an election promise and hit Ontarians with a new health tax to help struggling hospitals.

Meanwhile, city leaders in my hometown of Orillia are fighting back.

In a resolution that passed Feb. 4, councillors in Stephen Leacock’s Mariposa town, who complain electricity is already one of its biggest costs, are demanding McGuinty suspend his plans to deregulate the price the MUSH sector pays.

Now, here’s why Hydro One customers face higher distribution rates.

As it promised in a prospectus, before a Tory plan to sell off the publicly owned utility through an IPO was blocked by the courts, Hydro One is pushing ahead with harmonizing rural rates after it swallowed up 88 smaller utilities in 2001 and 2002.

In its application to the Ontario Energy Board (OEB), Hydro One is seeking approval to generate $1,067,000,000 in revenue and to consolidate delivery rates through a four-year phase-in plan.

The OEB notice says if the application is approved, Hydro One “indicates an average customer would experience an increase of less than 1% on the total electricity bill.” Delivery costs, which have already been heading higher, are one of four items on an electricity bill, including the hated debt retirement tax.

If approved, families in rural areas are going to see their delivery charges jump as high as 35% over the next four years, depending on where they live.

For example, the folks who live in Avonmore will see their delivery charges rise by 8% this year, and a whopping 34.9% in four years, according to a chart on Hydro One’s web site (www.hydroonenetworks.com). In Owen Sound, the rate will jump by 6.4% this year, and by 30% in four years; Rockland Town 8.5% and 33.5%; and Wardsville 8.8% and 29.6%. Other areas, like Springfield Village don’t get his as hard with a 4.1% hike this year and 10.5% in the next four years.

A Hydro One spokesman explained a harmonized rate structure means “all of our customers with similar energy needs and requirements, no matter where they live or do business” would pay the same rate.

Bottom line is many families and small businesses are already struggling with skyrocketing electricity bills, since Ontario started going down the dark road of hydro deregulation. Seniors on fixed incomes have been hit particularly hard.

“Many of my clients are having a tough time making ends meet and this is another nail in the coffin,” said Burke Chamberlin, owner of Whitfield Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning in Bancroft, where distribution rates would rise by 8.7% this year and 21.2% in four years.

Chamberlin is circulating an e-mail to try to encourage Ontarians to fight back.

“It’s time for all Ontarians, and in this case especially the rural population to stand up and be heard and let the province’s regulators know enough is enough.”

The Hydro One spokesperson said people can take part in public hearings.

“Public participation helps ensure the OEB makes an informed decision on our rates,” she said.

To have your say, go to the OEB’s website at http://www.oeb.gov.on.ca or call the consumer relations centre at 1-877-632-2727.

Angry taxpayers keep asking when will we ever see an end to the debt retirement tax, which is paying down the old stranded Ontario Hydro debt of $20.9 billion.

According to the Electricity Act, the debt should be paid off between 2012 and 2020. But while you and I go broke paying our skyrocketing bills, here’s more hydro madness, after they busted up Ontario Hydro into five pieces and sold off many valuable assets paid by taxpayers.

Hydro One has had a revolving door of highly paid CEOs, with Tom Parkinson walking away with a $5 million parachute, on top of a $1.7-million salary.

The heads at Ontario Power Generation and the Independent Electricity System Operator get fat-cat pay of $1.5 million and $1.2 million respectively.

There’s been a 24% hike in civil servant pay packages of $100,000 a year, most of them at hydro. McGuinty and his crew at Queen’s Park got a 25% pay hike.

And Toronto Hydro sought a 6.3% hike in electricity prices to make up for lost revenue, because too many of us are starting to conserve energy.

Don’t get me going on the smart meters McGuinty is forcing into every home by 2010 that will have us getting up at 4 a.m. to cook meals and do laundry.

That’s another column.


• You can call Linda Leatherdale at (416) 947-2332 or e-mail at linda.leatherdale@sunmedia.caJoin Linda in telling Mayor Miller: No more taxes!


• Have a letter for the editor? E-mail it to torsun.editor@sunmedia.ca
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