Ontario can’t afford more regressive energy policies

jasmine pickel

Jasmine Moulton

Ontarians remember the terrible stories of sky-rocketing hydro bills after the former Ontario government’s Green Energy Act sent hydro prices soaring. Everyday people had to choose whether to heat or eat.

Kathy Katula famously pleaded with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a 2017 televised townhall to help her with her $1,000 per month hydro bill that left her with just $60 for groceries.

Trudeau must have a short memory, because he recently made two energy announcements that will clobber struggling Ontarians yet again.

Before the holidays, he announced that his government will be increasing the carbon tax by 467 per cent from today’s price by 2030 and will also be imposing new fuel regulations that will further increase gas prices by up to 19 per cent on top of the carbon tax. Together, these changes will add 50 cents to each litre of gasoline by 2030, according to Canadians for Affordable Energy.

That means that after Trudeau’s new double carbon tax, it will cost you an extra $36 to fill up a minivan and $60 more to fill up a pickup truck. The tax on natural gas and diesel is also increasing.

Documents obtained from the federal Environment ministry by Blacklock’s Reporter concede, “increases in transportation fuel and home heating expenses would disproportionately impact lower and middle-income households […] as well as households currently experiencing energy poverty.”

The Fraser Institute defines energy poverty as “a situation where households spend at least 10 per cent of their household budgets on in-home energy use such as lights, appliances and heating.” The province of Ontario is already home to the highest number of people living in energy poverty in Canada, with the count surpassing 1.1 million households, according to a 2019 energy poverty report from Canadian Urban Sustainability Practitioners.

The federal government calls these new measures a “progressive vision,” but increasing energy poverty amongst middle- and low-income households is the opposite of progressive. By definition, taxes are regressive when they disproportionately impact lower-income earners.

The federal report also said that Ontario’s economy would be hit hardest out of all the provinces by the federal government’s new fuel regulations, with a projected decline in provincial GDP of $3.7 billion. Ontario will bear 58 per cent of the economic costs of Trudeau’s new fuel regulations, even though the province represents less than 40 per cent of the country’s population.

More costly, regressive energy policies are the last thing Ontario needed. Ontario is still reeling from the ghosts of bad energy policies past.

The former government inked deals in its Green Energy Act that locked ratepayers into paying above market energy rates that cost families $77 for every $100 on their bills for power that they weren’t even using. Overall, it cost Ontarians $37 billion extra. That led to the highest electricity rates in the country and one of the highest on the continent. After admitting its mistake, the former government’s solution was to finance current rate reductions through a $26-billion debt tab to be repaid – with interest – by future taxpayers.

Ontario’s already the largest subnational debtor on the planet, and our debt is approaching $400 billion this year. More debt usually means more of our taxes get eaten up by interest payments to wealthy creditors instead of paying for vital services for Ontario’s most vulnerable.

Fighting climate change shouldn’t force Ontario seniors to choose between heating or eating. The word progress usually connotes something positive, but when it comes to green energy policies in Ontario – we are moving from bad to worse.

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