What Ontario's major political parties are promising on hydro bills

·4 min read
Ontario's electricity is 94 per cent free of carbon dioxide emissions. However, the province's current long-term energy plan envisions boosting gas-fired power to become 25 per cent of the electricity mix by 2040.  (Mike Crawley/CBC - image credit)
Ontario's electricity is 94 per cent free of carbon dioxide emissions. However, the province's current long-term energy plan envisions boosting gas-fired power to become 25 per cent of the electricity mix by 2040. (Mike Crawley/CBC - image credit)

Hydro bills in Ontario are going up — and the province's Financial Accountability Office (FAO) says you shouldn't expect much relief anytime soon.

From 2018 to 2021 hydro bills went up 4.3 per cent, according to the FAO, and the financial watchdog expects costs will continue to increase by two per cent per year.

The Progressive Conservatives pledged in their 2018 campaign to lower hydro bills by 12 per cent, but the cost of electricity has gone in the opposite direction. In response the party shifted its messaging, saying instead that hydro bills are 12 per cent lower than they would have been if the policies of the last Liberal government remained in place.

Here's what Ontario's major parties are promising to do about the rising cost of electricity if elected on June 2.

Progressive Conservatives

Despite failing to fulfil that 2018 campaign pledge, the PC party has defended its record on hydro rates over the last four years.

The PC's pre-election budget touts their cancellations of non-hydroelectric renewable energy contracts made under the last Liberal government, which the party says has benefited ratepayers.

The budget also points to a number of programs available which provide support for people who may have trouble paying their bill, like the Ontario Electricity Support Program and the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program.

Liberals

The Liberals are pledging 100,000 grants for retrofits of up to $3,000 for households and businesses. Those retrofits would help bring down the costs of energy bills, the party says.

Potential retrofits under the proposed program would include new windows, insulation, heat pumps and flood protection.

The Liberals also say they would provide interest-free loans for "deeper retrofits," though they have not said what installations would be included under the plan.

NDP

The New Democrats are proposing a number of changes to energy generation that the party says will lower hydro bills for Ontarians.

"The Liberals' decision to privatize Hydro One drove up the cost of electricity for regular families. Doug Ford broke his promise to Ontarians to reduce hydro rates by 12 per cent. Now, Doug Ford's plan is to spend $118 billion of taxpayers' money to subsidize hydro while rates keep climbing. The system is broken," the party platform reads.

The party says it would work to boost power generation from renewable sources, like wind and solar, improve grid storage and also import electricity from Quebec and Manitoba when it makes sense.

The party is also proposing its own retrofit program, but does not elaborate much beyond saying it will be "ambitious."

"We will also work with businesses to establish lower industrial rates in exchange for conservation policy wins," the NDP says in its campaign platform.

The New Democrats say they would establish an advisory panel with experts drawn from jurisdictions across Canada that have "kept energy prices low." The panel would focus on restoring public ownership, maintaining reliability of the grid and supply and keeping prices affordable, according to the party.

The NDP also wants to make better use of surplus energy generated in off-peak hours, and use "innovative new decentralized technologies" to meet electricity demand, but doesn't offer more details.

Green Party

The Green plan on energy is focused on getting the province to net-zero emissions by 2045, and as part of that the party wants to change power generation. The party says its efforts to retrofit homes and make power usage more efficient will lower bills.

The Greens are proposing a sweeping retrofit program that would aim to have 40 per cent of the province's homes and workplaces to net-zero emissions by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2040. The program will "help people save money by saving energy," the party's campaign platform says.

The Greens are also pledging to establish conservation programs for electricity, gas and water, "including ensuring that multi-unit buildings improve energy efficiency and install individual meters for every unit."

A Green government would double Ontario's electricity supply by 2040, the party says, potentially negotiate buying and/or exchanging power with Quebec "if both power and transmission are available at a reasonable price."

The Green Party says it wants homes and business that use renewable energy (solar panels, for example) to earn credits for surplus production, but the platform doesn't offer many details on that front.

The party also wants to end most of the $7 billion in energy subsidies the province currently pays out each year. That money would be redirected toward climate action, it says.

Existing subsidies that support people who are low income or live in rural and remote areas, as well as those for First Nations families, would remain in place, the Greens say.

Looking for more details about the platforms of the four major parties in this June's Ontario election? Head to this story where you can read the platforms for youself.

You can also use Vote Compass to compare your political views to those of the major parties.

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