Manitoba

NDP vows to offer $350 Hydro rebate for every residence

An NDP government would slash every Hydro bill by hundreds of dollars in the hopes that some Manitobans will spend their rebate on green initiatives instead.

Extra money off electricity bills would motivate green behaviour, Wab Kinew pledges; economist skeptical

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew promises to keep the carbon tax at $20 a tonne and give a $350 rebate on energy bills if elected in September. (Kelly Geraldine Malone/The Canadian Press)

An NDP government would slash every Hydro bill by hundreds of dollars in the hopes that some Manitobans will spend their rebate on green initiatives instead.

Leader Wab Kinew said a government under his leadership would offer a $350 rebate on electricity bills for every primary residence in the province — no matter how large or small.

The NDP said if elected on Sept. 10 it would fund the rebate from proceeds it earns from a carbon tax rate that's frozen for at least four years.

Kinew said the refund would incentivize Manitobans to choose green behaviours, such as purchasing electric cars, since electricity would become a cheaper fuel source. 

Worried by 'end of the month'

"I've spoken to many families," Kinew told reporters Monday morning from the University of Winnipeg College for the Environment and Science Complex, "who tell me that they're not just worried about the end of the world — they're also worried about the end of the month."

Kinew's plan depends on the federal government endorsing the NDP's plan, even though Kinew proposes a flat $20 per tonne price rather than Ottawa's escalating carbon tax that would reach $50 per tonne by 2022. It also assumes that a different federal party isn't ushered into power by October.

The NDP's plan, Kinew said, would encourage people to rely less on gas and more on clean, hydroelectric energy.

"By doing this, we have given you a subsidy on your next electric vehicle," Kinew said as an example, "because not only are you saving money over the gas that you're not having to buy, you're also saving $350 per year over the life of your vehicle, over and above that amount." 

Green Party Leader James Beddome said the NDP's plan essentially coaxes people into wasting energy. 

"There's no real tying, or targeting it to actual initiatives that would reduce emissions, like better insulating people's homes," he said.

Beddome says it's unlikely the federal government will support the NDP's pricing system, which the Green leader described as comparable, if not worse, than the Progressive Conservatives' flat $25 per tonne price that Ottawa rejected. 

Kinew, however, expects the federal government to buy in.

The Manitoba New Democrats are betting it will be able to convince Ottawa to back its flat carbon tax, rather than the escalating rate it imposed on Manitoba. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

"I think it'll go very well," he said of negotiating with Trudeau, saying his government is seeking partners to work with.

"We're not just using the stick that Mr. Pallister proposed when he brought in his idea of a flat carbon tax," Kinew said. "We've also got the carrot to incentivize you to switch to a lower emission vehicle, to weatherize your home and to reduce your carbon footprint."

University of Winnipeg economics Prof. Phil Cyrenne said neither the NDP's plan, nor Ottawa's model — which offers a rebate on everybody's income tax — provides enough money to influence major purchasing decisions, like converting a home from natural gas to electricity. 

The NDP said it would keep the carbon tax at the current level for the duration of their first term in government, while they would study the plan's effectiveness. 

More plug-in stations 

Kinew said a court fight isn't necessary because he's optimistic the federal government will be receptive to his plan. 

The Manitoba government withdrew its plan last year when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to consider the province's plan as sufficient. Manitoba has joined Saskatchewan, Ontario and Alberta in fighting the tax in court.

Aside from electricity rebates, Kinew said the remaining 10 per cent of carbon tax proceeds under his plan would go toward developing green incentives for Manitobans.

The NDP would also install electric charging stations throughout the province and turn Manitoba Hydro into a renewable energy company by investing in solar and wind power, Kinew said.

The Progressive Conservatives say the NDP shouldn't be trusted on Hydro matters, after spending billions on "politically motivated projects" like the Bipole III transmission line and the Keeyask dam. 

"Having wrecked Hydro once, now Wab Kinew wants to use Hydro as an ATM to bribe Manitobans with their own hard-earned money to pay for his risky campaign promises," Scott Fielding, PC candidate for Kirkfield Park, said in a statement.

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About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese is a reporter with CBC Manitoba. He has previously worked for newspapers in Brandon and Steinbach. Story idea? Email: ian.froese@cbc.ca.

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