Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne may feel your pain but she still needs your money.
That explains why 2017 started with her Liberal government putting a little extra cash into one of your pockets with a hydro rebate only to take even more out of the other with new carbon taxes.
The rebate was announced with much fanfare late last year when Wynne apologized profusely for the soaring hydro bills that have literally forced some Ontarians to choose between paying for rent or electricity.
And when it kicked in on Jan. 1, the rebate trimmed hydro bills by eight per cent, for an average annual savings of $130 per household. Don’t count on having more money to spend, however. You won’t.
As the new year began, Ontarians were also hit with a new, 4.3-cent-a-litre tax on gasoline and a new fee on natural gas — the most common home-heating fuel in this province.
Add up the impact of these new costs — roughly two dollars for every gasoline-tank refill and the estimated $60 to $80 extra the typical household will pay annually for natural gas — and you’re well above the $130-a-year hydro refund the government is so proudly hailing.
But the problem here is not limited to the government’s penchant for shameless self-promotion and financial shell games — or to the marginally higher gasoline and natural gas bills facing Ontarians.
The problem is the Liberals are notoriously big spenders and bad managers. And by now, whenever we hear them talk about stopping climate change, we want to run for the hills. Their dreams have a habit of becoming your nightmares.
As the Liberals try to mitigate the years of damage wreaked by their disastrous Green Energy Act, which is largely responsible for those soaring hydro bills, they’re rushing ahead with another major, anti-global warming initiative, a cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions.
Want to know why Ontario’s hydro bills — once among North America’s most affordable — became so crippling for so many? Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk says the exorbitant subsidies paid to the producers of solar and wind power between 2006 and 2015 cost the province an unnecessary $50 billion and accounted for 70 per cent of the crushing consumer energy rates in 2013.
In addition, and contrary to the Liberal party line, Lysyk says that despite the new hydro rebate, Ontarians will continue to see their electricity bills go through the ceiling.