Hydro bills and sleepless nights
Premier Wynne is losing sleep. Her insomnia was caused by a question put to her by Doug Ford in this week's debate.
"When did you lose your way?"
If she's losing sleep, she appreciates what it's been like to open a hydro bill.
The Ontario Liberal Party has been telling anyone who will listen lately that Ontario's electricity prices are quite reasonable and altogether competitive. It's factually wrong to say we have the highest hydro rates in North America! #FakeNewsFord
This will not quell anger over stories of seniors wearing sweaters, or United Way campaigns dedicating fundraising dollars to help the poor pay electricity bills.
Hydro rates in Ontario are not the highest in North America, yet. That hardly matters. For millions of voters their bills are higher than they should be, higher than they've ever been. They've caused countless sleepless nights. The only cruel twist is Premier Wynne is almost alone in having to explain it all, as the true culprits fled long ago.
But in a search for truth in a post-truth world, let's take a look at those hydro rates, with the clock ticking on Liberal ruled Ontario.
For the last several years, Hydro Québec has published an annual report called: Comparison of Electricity Prices in Major North American Cities. The most recent report was released in April of 2017.
It's an attempt to compare the monthly electricity bills of Québec customers in the residential, commercial, institutional and industrial sectors with those of customers of various utilities serving 21 major North American cities. This is no easy task. Most of these utilities have yearly rate adjustments and their own time-of-use rates. There is a maze of adjustment clauses, taxes, fees and the exchange rate.
Hydro Québec has its own motivations for releasing such a report. It's a provincial monopoly seeking to convince its own customers they're getting a great product at a great price. Hydro Québec is also a major player in the business of exporting its clean, renewable hydro-electric power to other provinces and the northeastern United States.
The report is thick with detailed charts about the typical monthly electricity bill across North America. Yet it has one serious flaw. While it measures the relative rates of 22 utilities (including Hydro Ottawa and Toronto Hydro) it fails to include Hydro One. There are 1.3-million Hydro One customers. It's the largest electricity transmission company in Canada.. It's like comparing tomato prices and failing to include Loblaws.
Québec enjoys Canada's lowest hydro rates, Ontario has some of the highest. While rates are higher across Atlantic Canada, it is the rapid pace of the increase in Ontario that has caused so much anger. In 2014 hydro rates were 80 per cent higher in Toronto than they were in Montreal. As of last year, Toronto's hydro rates were 130 per cent higher. Toronto Hydro's average residential rates have risen more than 30 per cent in the last five years. The same rates in Montreal were up less than three per cent over the same time.
When American cities are included the liberal point comes into focus. Hydro Québec says Boston and NYC residents are paying double the going rate in Toronto. People in San Francisco are paying the most, at 31¢/kWh. Rates are lower in Chicago, Houston, Miami, Portland, Nashville and Seattle. Hydro Québec says the average electricity rate, among the 21 cities is 15.81¢/kWh.
On that score, Ontario is above the average, but not "the highest".
From there it gets tricky, because of the absence of any Hydro One data. In 2016, the brilliant Parker Gallant estimated the utility's customers (in low and medium density areas) were paying rates ranging from 22.6¢/kWh to 25.9¢/kWh. The Financial Post reported average monthly bills of between $226.58 and $258.82 for these same users, bills that rival all but the most expensive cities offered up for comparison by Hydro Québec.
They're not the highest in North America, but that hardly matter if you live in Sault Ste. Marie and have just been walloped by a $250 hydro bill. Plus you've witnessed the gross waste of the gas plant scandal, a criminal cover-up and multi-million dollar paydays for those at the top of hydro food chain.
George Smitherman, the architect of the treacherous Green Energy Act, claimed Ontario's electricity revolution would see bills increase just 1 percent per year over 15 years. But Mr. Smitherman is long gone, so are Dalton McGuinty, Chris Bentley, Deb Matthews, Brad Duguid, Glen Murray and all other true believers who set this disaster into motion.
No wonder the Premier is losing sleep.