After paying off your mortgage, what would you do if your bank continued to send you a bill?
Anyone who pays a hydro bill in Ontario could relate to that kind of outrage – all because of the debt retirement charge.
In place for approximately eight years, the provincial government has added that charge of between $67 and $84 a year to our hydro bills. Its purpose was to pay off a hydro debt dating back to the 1980s. Known as the residual stranded debt, that debt amounted to $7.8-billion in 2002, and was scheduled to be paid off in 2012.
According to the Ontario Electricity Financial Corporation, the people of Ontario have paid $7.8-billion over the past eight years; they should be right on schedule for relief from that burden next year.
But that’s not likely to happen if the Dalton McGuinty Liberals have their way. In fact, they plan to continue collecting it until up to 2018.
And that’s on top of the HST, which the Liberals have applied to hydro bills – including the debt retirement charge – since last July 1.
It’s also on top of the substantial hydro rate increases of the past few years. And we can expect more of the same in the future. According to the Liberal government’s own documents, hydro rates are expected to rise over the next five years by about 8 per cent a year.
For many in our communities, that’s just unaffordable.
Along with the Progressive Conservative caucus, I intend to continue looking for ways to bring those increases down.
In November we brought a motion to force the McGuinty government to reveal how much longer we’ll have to pay the debt retirement charge, and how much debt remains to be paid.
But the Liberal government voted to keep that amount hidden. We can only conclude, therefore, that they are trying to turn the debt retirement charge into a permanent tax grab.
We need to know why the McGuinty government will continue charging us for a debt that should be paid next year. That’s why we are calling for a forensic audit of the debt retirement charge and residual stranded debt.
We need an open and honest accounting. That shouldn’t be too much to ask, even from a government preoccupied with finding new ways to waste our hard-earned tax dollars.
Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott welcomes comments. He can be reached at 1-800-265-2366. His website address is www.tedarnottmpp.com.