Ottawa businesses lobby province to halt hydro hike

Ottawa's business associations have signed a letter of protest to the provincial government over the proposed increases in hydro rates.
Small and medium-sized businesses want province to hold off on proposed hydroelectricity increases. 2:19

Ottawa's business associations have signed a letter of protest to the provincial government over the proposed increases in hydro rates.

Last week the Liberal government unveiled a long-term energy strategy that would see rates rise; the average bill of $125 per month would rise to $167 a month by 2016 and $210 a month by 2033. In five years, the rates are expected to increase by 42 per cent.

All 18 of the city's neighbourhood business improvement associations joined to write the letter, which says a proposed hydro increase is a threat to Ottawa businesses and jobs.

The letter also says Ottawa risks losing businesses to Quebec, where hydro rates are significantly lower.

Time-of-use rates already hurting, say BIAs

Paul Cheam, who owns Grace International Foods on Bank Street, a small supermarket that needs power for fridges and freezers, said his last energy bill — for two months — was $3,691.52, and he's worried about what future bills will look like.         

"It's a lot of expense. Forty per cent? What can I do? I hope that the government can do something with it, such as not to increase that much," said Cheam.

Local businesses say they are already reeling from the introduction of time-of-use billing, which made it much more expensive to use electricity during peak daytime hours than during evenings and nighttime.

Laurie Mellor, president of the Preston St. BIA, said time-of-use billing punishes businesses, since peak hours also tends to be when most businesses are open.

"When they went to this time-of-day-billing, that's already doubled our businesses hydro bills. So they're already paying 100 per cent more than they did in 2012, and now we're looking at 30 per cent for the next three years," she said.

Alex Lewis, the president of the Bells Corners BIA, said the expected energy costs are unsustainable for many businesses.

"I don't think this is a road we can continue down and I don't think the government of Ontario is stepping up to do enough now to help small businesses," said Lewis.

Bank St. Diner owner Farouk Chowdry said the rate increase could put him out of business.

"This increase is like really a toll. I am even thinking of closing down, soon," said Chowdry.

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