Energy rate hikes punish the poor

The increases to our energy bills alone over the next five years are greater than the amount of income tax paid by a minimum wage earner in Ontario.

(This column originally appeared in HuffPo)

By: Candice Malcolm

Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli unveiled Ontario’s long-term energy policy in early December, and it wasn’t pretty. It was an especially tough pill to swallow for folks already struggling to make ends meet in Ontario.

Ontario households can expect a 33 per cent increase in our energy bills over the next three years and will see prices continue to soar over the next 20 years.

In 2013, the government tells us, the typical family’s monthly hydro bill was 5. Five years from now, in 2018, it will be 8 — a -per-month increase. That means within five years we will pay an additional 6 per year.

Think about the average individual in Ontario earning minimum wage. This person brings in ,320 in annual earnings, and pays 6 per year in provincial income tax.

The increases to our energy bills alone over the next five years are greater than the amount of income tax paid by a minimum wage earner in Ontario. This hike equates to more than doubling the income tax of a low-income earner in Ontario.

Talk about a regressive tax.

Sure, low-income earners in our province receive the Ontario Trillium Benefit; a credit to help cover property taxes, provincial sales taxes and energy rates for low-income earners. This benefit provides recipients with 5 per month or 6 for a senior; not even enough to cover their 2013 monthly energy bill, let alone the tab after the 43 per cent hike by 2018.

Rather than apologizing on behalf of the Ontario government for driving up energy bills by forcing ratepayers to subsidize green energy producers, Minister Chiarelli suggested there might be government assistance for Ontario families to install solar panels. It’s tough to imagine many low-income families will be able to take advantage of that program.

Minister Chiarelli offered little by way of conciliation or sympathy over his government’s rate hikes, saying that higher prices are just a fact of life. He refused to acknowledge any relationship between his government’s disastrous green energy policies and these rate increases.

But according to the ministry of Energy’s own data, the average residential costs attributed to green energy each month will be by 2018, which represent an astonishing 1,450 per cent increase from 2010.

Former Premier Dalton McGuinty’s signature Green Energy and Green Economy Act (2009) has lead to mass job losses in coal production, manufacturing and countless other industries, has contributed to our colossal debt in Ontario, and has established Ontario as the highest-priced energy jurisdiction in Canada.

From the cancelled gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville to the billions in corporate subsidies from taxpayers to lure in green energy producers, this government’s management of the energy file has driven up the costs of energy and is destroying our standard of living in Ontario.

This needs to stop.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) is calling for the government to dismantle the Green Energy Act once and for all. Instead of doubling down on this failed experiment as the recent plan suggests, the government should take steps to phase out failed energy sources and scrap the green subsidies like the Feed-in-Tariff scheme.

The CTF also recommends eliminating the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit so taxpayers stop giving ratepayers a 10 per cent rebate on their household energy bill. This is a cynical tool used to mask the soaring costs of green energy and still costs taxpayers .1 billion.

By following these recommendations and eliminating these costly programs, the average Ontario household could save hundreds of dollars per year. That is a lot of money, especially for folks still struggling in our economy.

The Wynne government should think about the people who suffer the most from irresponsible government decisions and stop letting poorly designed green programs guide our energy policies in Ontario.