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Published on Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Liberal government plan cuts hydro cost 25% for small business

Impact of Ontario’s new hydro plan on Oakville businesses not yet clear: Chamber

Liberal government plan cuts hydro cost 25% for small business
Premier cuts cost of hydro 25%
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced a 25 per cent rate cut for hydro customers and explained why her government is only acting now. (TORONTO STAR)
By Nathan Howes, Oakville Beaver
Although the Oakville Chamber of Commerce applauds the Ontario government for taking steps to scale back rising hydro costs for businesses, it is still unclear how local businesses will benefit.

That’s according to Chamber president John Sawyer, who made the remarks Thursday, March 30 following a roundtable meeting in Oakville with Ontario Minister of Minister Glenn Thibeault.

The closed discussion, attended by Sawyer, Chamber members, Oakville MPP and Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn and Thibeault, was to talk about the Province’s Fair Hydro Plan, which will start this summer.

It will lower electricity bills by 25 per cent, on average, for residential customers and small businesses, as part of a system restructuring.

It aims to ensure greater fairness and comes in the wake of a hue and cry about the soaring hydro rates experienced in recent years.

The 25 per cent includes an already announced eight per cent rebate introduced in January.

As part of this plan, rate increases over the next four years would be held to the rate of inflation for everyone.

When the Oakville Beaver asked Sawyer after the meeting if any Chamber members had concerns on the new plan, he said more clarification is needed, but if there is a criticism, it’s to “get us the details” quickly, so they can be given to members for review.

“We’re still waiting for some clarification on what it actually means to business. Those details are being sorted out,” said Sawyer.

He noted there was a “real diversity” of Oakville businesses represented in the roundtable discussion — from small manufacturing and retail operations to “giants,” such as Ford Motor Company of Canada and Siemens.

“It was very good for the minister to hear them directly, which is why we do this. He was very good at answering the questions directly. We know our voice has been heard,” said Sawyer.

Because some Oakville Chamber members didn’t know if they qualified for the 25 per cent reduction, Thibeault said the meeting allowed him to clarify —
“If you’re a time-of-use customer, just like you are at home, if your business is a time-of-use customer, you will also see the 25 per cent reduction.”


He also encouraged small businesses to take advantage of money- and energy-saving programs offered through local utility companies, including Oakville Hydro.

While Opposition Leader, head of the Ontario New Democrats Party (NDP), Andrea Horwath has publicly criticized the plan for not offering relief for hospitals, Thibeault offered a rebuttal at Thursday’s media scrum.

He said hydro costs represent just one per cent of a hospital’s operating budget.

“Yes, their bills have gone up just like everyone else’s in the province, but you haven’t heard any hospital come out and say there are direct layoffs or anything to do with that because of electricity bills,” said Thibeault.

He noted Sudbury’s hospital participated in a local utility energy-saving program that cost $275,000, but it received a significant portion of it back and is now saving $500,000 a year on hydro.

He then stated hospitals, schools and municipalities, in general, will see a four per cent reduction in cost as a result of the plan.

“It’s a modest reduction, but it still is something coming off,” said Thibeault.

“While we recognize rates have gone up, this wasn’t an issue we were hearing from many of the hospitals, but we did put programs in place to help them.”

Oakville Mayor Rob Burton, a member of Halton Healthcare’s board of directors, confirmed hydro accounts for a small percentage of a hospital’s operating budget.

He also noted Halton Healthcare has received increased funding to reflect growth, so “we’ve been well-looked after in the hospital sector, as of late.”

“We run three hospitals (Halton Healthcare). Hydro costs have actually never come up. There are important issues in front of us and this isn’t one of them,” Burton told the Beaver Friday, March 31.

Hydro isn’t an issue for the Town either, according to Burton, as it is converting its streetlights to high-efficiency, light-emitting diodes (LED), which is almost complete. Oakville is saving “so much money that it’s not an issue for us, either.”

"This government has been very good about dealing with issues and solving them for us. I marvel that a government that has done so much good, could be ranked so low in the polls," said Burton.


While Thibeault acknowledged the Ontario Liberals’ popularity numbers have dropped because of hydro costs, he said it doesn’t govern based on “where we are in the polls, we govern by what we think is best for the people of Ontario.”

“It was never too late, in my opinion, to do what is right for the people of Ontario. For us, that’s why we acted. We’ve been doing this for awhile,” said Thibeault.

“This plan, right now, helps us bring forward that 25 per cent relief — the single-largest electricity bill rate reduction in Ontario’s history.”
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Author: Mayor Rob Burton

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