Making Electricity More Affordable

Yasir NaqviBy Yasir Naqvi, MPP Ottawa Centre

Over the last few years, Ontario’s economy has emerged and recovered from the impact of the global recession, growing by 6.1 per cent and creating 600,000 new jobs. Locally in Ottawa, we are growing and expanding as well. While economic analysis projects more growth in our province, families in our communities are telling us that they have yet to feel the impact of the recovery in their everyday lives.

That is why I am pleased to share with you that our government has announced important action to reduce the cost of electricity bills for families and businesses, in addition to reducing northern, rural and remote bills even more.

Ontario’s electricity system is cleaner and more reliable today than ever before, creating a range of health and economic benefits. An independent assessment has estimated savings of more than $4 billion per year in health, financial, and environmental costs associated with smog and pollution due to the elimination of coal-fired electricity generation. In fact, according to the Air Quality Health Index, Ottawa did not have any smog days this summer. This improvement is a result of our investments in cleaner and more reliable energy.

However, Ontario recognizes that these important investments have resulted in high electricity costs on the average household and business. We have had conversations with people all across the province and we are committed to taking these concerns seriously and helping with the cost of everyday living.

That is why we have introduced legislation that will assist individuals, families, farms and businesses of all sizes with their electricity bills. This legislation, if passed, would eliminate the provincial portion of the HST (8 per cent) on residential, farm and small business electricity bills as of January 1, 2017. This amounts to the typical Ontario household saving about $130 annually.

By providing direct, on-bill savings per month, Ontario families will have access to additional disposable income to save or spend, based on the household’s priorities. Eligible rural ratepayers would also receive additional relief, resulting in average savings of about $45 per month or $540 per year. This is a necessary relief to help offset the higher cost of supplying power (delivery charges) to these areas.

Small businesses in our communities can now use their electricity bill savings to invest in their future, or, pass the savings onto their consumers by lowering prices. Larger businesses will also reap the benefit of our plan as the Industrial Conservation Initiative (ICI) will be expanded by lowering the threshold for participation and allowing eligibility beyond existing customer types. When fully implemented, participating industrial customers could find cost savings of up to 34 per cent, depending on their ability to reduce peak electricity consumption. Conservation programs delivered by local distribution companies will also continue to provide significant programs tailored to specific business classes and needs. The expansion of the ICI program will empower businesses to manage their electricity costs in a way that best supports their growth.

It is important to note other measures that can help reduce electricity bills remain in place, including:

  • The Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit which saves qualifying individuals up to $993 per year, with a maximum of $1,131 per year for qualifying seniors;
  • The saveONenergy Home Assistance Program helps income-eligible consumers manage their energy costs by providing home energy efficiency assessments and energy saving measures at no cost;
  • The Ontario Electricity Support Program helps eligible households – particularly low-income families and seniors on a fixed income. (ADD average savings)
  • The removal of the Debt Retirement Charge from residential bills since January 1, 2016 is saving the average family $70 annually.

Even though electricity rates are set by the independent Ontario Energy Board, we are taking these important steps to help reduce electricity bills across the board. Therefore, our government is taking action to reduce prices where we can.

Collectively, these measures would result in significant monthly cost savings to help Ontario families manage their own household budgets. The rebate of HST will represent about $1 billion in taxes returned to families and small businesses on their bills.

I am happy to share that this plan represents one of the single largest actions to reduce costs for electricity consumers in the province’s history. It keeps us on track to return the budget to balance in 2017-2018 and it maintains the clean and reliable system that we have invested in.

Please contact my office if you have any questions regarding the energy savings programs offered by the Ontario government and how you could qualify at ynaqvi.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org or 613-722-6414. You can also learn more by visiting: www.ontario.ca/energy.

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