NEWS

Ontario Liberals' Reported Plan To Slash Hydro Rates Just A 'Shell Game': Tories

03/01/2017 12:00 EST | Updated 03/02/2017 11:23 EST

TORONTO — Ontario's Opposition says a leaked Liberal government plan to cut electricity rates by an additional 17 per cent this year is just a "shell game."

The Toronto Star reports that Premier Kathleen Wynne's cabinet is expected to approve a plan to slash soaring hydro bills largely by financing the costs of electricity generation contracts over longer periods.

kathleen wynne

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne takes part in the meeting of First Ministers in Ottawa on Dec. 9, 2016. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

The reduction would include the eight per cent rebate on the provincial portion of the harmonized sales tax that kicked in this year.

Wynne's office would not confirm the plan to The Canadian Press.

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown says the plan would just shift costs from hydro bills to tax bills.

He asked Finance Minister Charles Sousa in question period if that means taxes are going to go up, and Sousa responded by saying the government is balancing the budget.

No bigger political issue

The Star reports that the Liberal government will also shift the Ontario Electricity Support Program for low-income customers to the tax base, rather than being funded by other ratepayers.

The Liberal government faces no bigger political issue at the moment than hydro bills, which have about doubled in the last decade, and Wynne has promised that further relief will be announced before the spring budget. The Star reports that the plan is being presented to cabinet Wednesday.

Wynne has previously signalled that more savings will be coming for rural and northern ratepayers, who face significantly higher costs than urban customers, and Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault has suggested that changes are on the way for time-of-use pricing.

The NDP on Monday presented its plan to lower hydro bills, including ending mandatory time-of-use pricing, reducing the delivery charge for rural customers and renegotiating power contracts.

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