SLATE RIVER, Ont. – Gerald Muller says most months his hydro bill amounts to having to make another mortgage payment.
The rural restaurant owner said he’s looking to any and all provincial political parties to do something to cut his electricity costs, on Thursday sharing a recent $1,088 power bill with Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who made the trek to Northwestern Ontario to talk about her party’s plan to keep hydro rates affordable.
Muller, who has owned A.J.’s Trading Post for the past 17 years, said it’s just too expensive for business owners and residents alike to afford.
“It’s actually equal to my $200,000 mortgage every month,” he said. “When you’re paying that kind of power (bill), it takes away from your bottom line actually.”
While he is looking for a financial break, what he’s not looking for is passing the payment buck to future generations, something both opposition parties in Ontario have accused the Liberals of doing after Premier Kathleen Wynne last week announced an additional 17 per cent reduction in hydro rates starting this summer, on top of the removal of the provincial portion of the HST announced last year.
“When you look at our bills, we just got rid of a line on there called debt retirement. I don’t want to see that line back for my children,” Muller said. “There is no reason why we should have to kick it down the road. There have to be other things that can be done other than deferring payments and paying more in interest.”
The NDP plan is nothing if not ambitious, promising to end time-of-use rates, which Horwath said unfairly targets business owners and creates confusion amongst ratepayers. She’d like a flat rate of about 10.3 cents per kilowatt hour, more in line with what’s paid in neighbouring Manitoba and Quebec.
The plan also calls for a buy-back of privatized shares in Hydro One, sold by the Liberal government and an evening out of distribution rates, which are much higher for rural residents and businesses in Ontario. Horwath also promised to extricate the province from any unfair long-term power provision deals, which benefit out-of-province and out-of-country businesses over Ontario residents and entrepreneurs.
“It’s not like hydro is a luxury,” Horwath said during a sit-down conversation with Muller. “It’s one of those things that should be fair.
While she praised the Liberals for finally answering the call and lowering rates, she was critical of how they’ll achieve their goal.
“They’re not doing anything to change the system. The problem is with the hydro system, with the electricity system,” Horwath said. “They’re just kicking it down the field. It seems like every other day there is a new idea that nobody has heard about.”
The NDP leader called on Wynne to table a bill on Monday to allow debate on the plan to stretch hydro borrowing costs over an additional 10 years, lowering rates initially, but spreading costs out over 30 years instead of 20.
Horwath said her plan will bring an additional $7 billion in dividends to the province, while she believes Wynne’s will cost taxpayers $40 billion. The Conservatives have yet to provide a viable plan, she added.