Ontario's Liberal government was not surprised by an internal poll in August that showed 94 per cent of Ontario residents were eager for a price relief on their hydro bills, said Sudbury MPP and Ontario Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault.
“Our government has been listening and that's why we acted with the speech from the throne,” he said referring to the eight-per-cent tax rebate on hydro bills the province announced in September, which will come into effect in January.
The Canadian Press learned through a freedom of information request that the government had commissioned polls to measure Ontarians' concerns about their hydro bills.
Ninety-four per cent of respondents said it is important that the government control hydro prices.
According to the Canadian Press the same percentage of respondents said their electricity bills had become much more or somewhat more expensive in the past five years.
Ontario's auditor general Bonnie Lysyk said in a report that hydro bills for residents and small businesses in the province have increased by more than 70 per cent from 2006 to 2014.
In an interview with Sudbury.com Thibeault said the provincial government has taken a number of steps to help reduce people's hydro bills, including the cancellation of green energy plans that will keep $2.45 a month from being added to hydro bills, and removing the debt retirement charge in January, which he said will save the average family $70 a year.
Thibeault countered criticism from both opposition parties stating the eight-per-cent tax rebate in January won't provide sufficient relief for most Ontario families.
“They don't have a plan,” he said. “It was the Conservatives who actually left us with a system that was blacking out, that had rolling brown outs. We had to clean it up.”
Thibeault added there are still more than 150,000 low-income families in Ontario that can apply for the Ontario Electricity Support Program, which compensates families based on their size and income.
Through the program, a family of five with a household income of less than $28,000, for example, qualifies for an on-bill credit of $42 per month.