By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
Some Oshawa residents are having to make a very difficult decision – pay the electricity bill, or lose their home.
It is stories like that that led Oshawa MPP Jennifer French to speak out on just how bad hydro rates have gotten in Ontario.
“We’ve passed the point of frustration. We’ve heard of people saying they’re going be on the street because they can’t pay all of their bills. There was a gentleman who came into my office my other day, and he was just befuddled,” she says.
“He’s saying, ‘I don’t know what more I can do. I had two fans on last summer, this year I tried to have only one on at a time.’ He doesn’t have air conditioning, and his bill has more than doubled.”
According to data from the Ontario Energy Board, the average non-peak price in May was 8.7 cents per kWh, and 18 cents per kWh for on-peak. This is up from 5.9 cents and 10.7 cents respectively in May 2011, and 3.5 cents and 10.1 cents respectively in May 2006.
French says that with some rates more than doubling in the past decade, residents both in Oshawa and across the province are forced to have to make tough decisions in order to survive.
“The challenge is that people shouldn’t just do their laundry in the middle of the night. It isn’t just about that, and that’s what I think people are realizing. They’re doing everything that they’ve been told to do to bring their bills down, and they still can’t pay their bills because the rates are skyrocketing,” she says.
“They can do all the helpful hints, and it’s not even making a dent. There’s no end in sight, and people are afraid. It’s September, and they’re afraid of the winter when they’re responsible for the cost of heating their homes and their family.”
However, there may be a small bit of relief on the horizon. Following the provincial legislature being prorogued and a new throne speech being delivered, it was announced that the province’s share of the sales tax on hydro bills – eight per cent – would no longer be charged, saving residents an average of $130 per year. The new plan is expected to cost the province approximately $1 billion per year.
French, however, says that this measure is too little, too late for many.
“(The Liberals are) willfully turning a deaf ear and a blind eye. The other day, the premier said that they’ve been listening and know that it’s urgent,” she says.
“It’s been urgent for a long time. It’s reached crisis levels with no end in sight.”
The new rebate will come into effect on Jan. 1.