Ontario opposition parties spar over NDP plan to reduce hydro rates

Ontario's NDP says its recently-announced plan will cut people's hydro bills by up to 30 per cent, but the PCs say the plan isn't sound.

NDP says plan includes making Hydro One public, re-negotiating previous power contracts

Ontario's NDP says it has a plan that will reduce hydro costs by up to 30 per cent. The PCs say the plan isn't sound. (Colin Perkel/Canadian Press)

Ontario's New Democratic Party says a recently-announced plan will cut people's hydro bills by up to 30 per cent, but the energy critic for the opposition Progressive Conservatives says the plan isn't sound.

"It's full of holes actually," said Todd Smith, the MPP for Prince Edward—Hastings. "There are a lot of numbers that just don't add up in this."

Smith also took the NDP to task over, what he said, is a "fantasy land approach" in terms of providing relief across northern and rural Ontario.

PC leader Patrick Brown has been campaigning heavily in the north over the cost of electricity.

The NDP's plan calls for the province to buy back the 30 per cent of shares in Hydro One the government has sold. The party said that would cost between $3.3 billion and $4.1 billion.
PC energy critic Todd Smith says the NDP's plan doesn't do enough to help northern and rural hydro customers. (Todd Smith, MPP / Facebook)

Eliminating mandatory time-of-use pricing, reducing delivery charges for rural Hydro One customers by using a fee paid by Ontario Power Generation and setting up a panel to examine cancelling or renegotiating long-term power contracts are also pillars of the NDP's plan.

Party leader Andrea Horwath said it offers concrete solutions.

"We are going to get Hydro One back into public hands ... that will help us with some of the longer term pieces," she said.

"In the short term, we are going to stop the delivery charges that are out of whack. We have lots of rural and northern customers ... [who] are paying far higher delivery charges than everybody else."

The Tories also contended that the plan doesn't do enough to address specific long-term contracts the province has entered into.
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says the party's plan offers a number of concrete solutions to tackling hydro costs in the province. (CBC)

"That's these exorbitant, 20-to-30-year fixed contracts for wind and solar that are hugely subsidized by the province of Ontario," Smith said.

The criticism is nothing new, Horwath said.

"I'm not surprised at all that people are going to be protecting the status-quo or defending the status quo," she said.

"There's people on the other side who are going to say we're not going far enough."

So far, the Liberals have offered some relief on hydro bills, including an 8 per cent cut in the HST. Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault and Premier Kathleen Wynne have said more relief is coming.

​However, the former director with the Ontario Power Authority and Independent Electricity Systems Operator and current president of the Ivey Foundation, Bruce Lourie, said the public should be cautious when hearing political promises to lower hydro rates.

"The reality is, we have a lot of fixed costs in the system," he said. "The question I would have for people is what have the historic plans of different parties done that have contributed to the very high electricity rates today."

Lourie added overall, politicians wouldn't be able to do much to lower the rates.

"It's kind of like saying let's make cars less expensive or let's make oil less expensive," he said. "It really isn't within the control of the politicians to do much about that."

With files from The Canadian Press