MINTO, Ont. — Premier Kathleen Wynne felt heat over hydro rates Tuesday at the International Plowing Match as she was booed several times.
After losing a byelection in east Toronto earlier this month, Wynne acknowledged growing anger in the province over rising hydro rates and soon after announced an eight-per-cent rebate on electricity bills and additional measures for rural and industrial customers.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne takes part in the International Plowing Match in Harriston, Ont. on Sept. 20, 2016. (Photo: Hannah Yoon)
But in a speech during the opening ceremonies of the plowing match — an event of such importance for rural Ontario that the legislature suspends sitting for two days so all party leaders and most of the members can attend — there was a large chorus of boos from the crowd as Wynne mentioned hydro rates.
"Liar," one woman shouted.
Several people also booed the Liberal float as it went by them in the opening parade.
Wynne suggested that those booing perhaps hadn't yet heard about the new measures she has announced.
'Whoop dee doo'
"I haven't had a chance to speak to every one of those people in the crowd and you're right, (there was) mixed reaction," she said.
"I think that there are people who don't yet know whether they're going to qualify, whether they will get the reduction we talked about or they may not know that they may be eligible for a 20-per-cent reduction."
But those who booed the premier told the The Canadian Press after the event that they had all heard about the rebates.
"Whoop dee doo," said Garland Webster, of Thamesville, Ont.
His hydro bill has increased about 35 per cent since Wynne became premier, he said.
Rural Ontarians struggling
Eighty-four-year-old Les Gray from Buckhorn, Ont., said the rebate "doesn't amount to anything."
"The price of hydro has gone up so much now that us old people now can hardly afford to live in our homes," he said. "She hasn't done a thing about it since she's been in power and I don't expect she will."
Ron Wright, of Forest, Ont., said the eight-per-cent rebate doesn't replace the Clean Energy Benefit, which provided a 10-per-cent reduction on electricity bills.
He blamed green energy contracts for why hydro bills are so high.
Electricity portion of hydro bills has spiked: auditor
Auditor general Bonnie Lysyk has said the electricity portion of hydro bills for homes and small businesses rose 70 per cent between 2006 and 2014.
The Green Energy Act is driving up rates, she has said. Hydro customers will pay a total of $9.2 billion more for wind and solar projects under the Liberals' 20-year guaranteed-price program for renewable energy than they would have paid under the old program.
The Liberals have said Ontario's electricity prices were driven up in large part by their move to stop burning coal to generate electricity, but believe prices will stabilize once associated costs have been covered.
The rebate, which will cost taxpayers about $1 billion a year, is expected to save the typical Ontario household about $130 a year, and the government projects additional savings of about $540 a year for rural electricity customers.