Horwath promises to scrap provincial part of HST on hydro bills
Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, May 12, 2014 10:43AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, May 12, 2014 10:34PM EDT
SUDBURY, Ont. -- A New Democrat government would cut the provincial portion of the HST from residential hydro bills, an amount equal to about $120 a year for average homeowners, Ontario's NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Monday.
Campaigning in northern Ontario, Horwath conceded the measure is modest, but said it's one easily implemented -- starting in 2016.
"People are shocked when they open their electricity bills," Horwath said in Thunder Bay.
"After 10 years in power, Liberals have left families paying some of the highest hydro bills in Canada."
Horwath's pledge came at the home of NDP supporter Jeff Caldwell, a working father, who said he would welcome the relief -- equal to eight per cent of energy bills.
His last hydro account, he said, cost $17 in HST, and such amounts all add up.
"Where do we get this money?" Caldwell said.
"We've got other responsibilities other than paying for the Liberals' mistakes -- not mistakes, recklessness."
Ontario's Liberal government concedes homeowners face a 33 per cent hike in hydro rates over the next three years but say it's lower than previous government estimates.
The NDP estimates that if those rate hikes occur, their proposed HST cut would cost the government about $700 million annually.
The homeowner's hydro complaint was similar in Sudbury, a thousand kilometres to the east, when Horwath stopped at a modest family home later in the day.
"We heat with hydro, so our hydro bills are costly," homeowner Chris Hallows told Horwath in his living room.
The Hallows estimate their monthly electricity charges at between $300 and $750, despite meticulous attempts at conservation.
"That's like a mortgage payment," his wife Jaymi said, as their toddler, Alice, scribbled in a colouring book.
On his campaign for the June 12 election, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak pledged Monday to cut the "bloated" bureaucracy, import energy from Quebec and the United States, and end subsidies for wind and solar power.
"Tim Hudak's plan is to repeat the same hydro privatization schemes that drove up bills the last time the Conservatives were in power," Horwath said.
Horwath said she also wants more control of what Ontario earns when it exports power and said an NDP government would not invest in new nuclear power facilities.
She also said she would honour current contracts, including those that subsidize wind and solar power.
"We see what the result is of tearing up contracts," Horwath said, a reference to the Liberals' scrapping of two gas power plants late in the last election that will end up costing provincial taxpayers more than $1 billion.
She said the province's four agencies that run the power system have CEOs and vice-presidents making "exorbitant salaries," so the NDP would merge them to reduce costs.
"We're determined to find those savings, to change the way our electricity system works," she said. "We can't accept the status quo."
The Liberals accused the NDP of being more concerned with "gimmicks" than with real long-term policies.
Horwath campaigns in Toronto on Tuesday.