Ontario hikes hydro fees, starts new rules in 2016

Resolve to cut down on your electricity use in the new year and pay attention near school crosswalks, because there are changes coming to Ontario in the new year.

Drivers, businesses will face new regulations in new year

Queen's Park is rolling out several new fees and rules on Jan. 1. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Resolve to cut down on your electricity use in the new year, as hydro rates are among several fees going up in 2016.

The increased fees — most people can expect to pay around nine dollars a month more — are among a number of provincial changes that will take effect on Jan. 1.

Here's a look at what to expect:

Hydro bills going up

The Ontario government is ending the debt retirement charge for ratepayers, but a 10 per cent discount called the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit is also disappearing. Unfortunately, the two cancellations don't offset one another, leaving people paying more.

The Ontario Energy Board also raised time-of-use rates in November and is planning more rate changes in the new year.

Some people who qualify for the Ontario Electricity Support Program will pay less, however only some 19 per cent of the 500,000 Ontarians who qualify for the new program have applied. That program will be subsidized in part by a $1 per month fee on everybody else's hydro bill.

Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said the goal of that change is to "maximize the benefits for people who need it the most,"

Smoking rules get tougher

The province will crack down on smoking across the province, starting on hospital grounds where smoking will be completely prohibited.

The province's ban on the sale of flavoured tobacco — which experts say is aimed at youth — also comes into effect. Children will also be banned from buying e-cigarettes.

Earlier this month, the government backtracked on its plan to ban e-cigarette use in public.

Mind the crosswalks

Drivers who pass schools on their daily routes will have to pay more attention when students go back to class. Under new rules, drivers who encounter crosswalks with crossing guards or flashing overhead lights must wait until pedestrians make it all the way across the street before proceeding.

The rule does not apply to crosswalks at ordinary intersections.

There are also new regulations for drivers who rack up enough demerit points to be called to the Ministry of Transport for an interview. That service will now cost $50, and failing to pay or attend the interview means your driver's licence can be cancelled.

Fees for renewing licences for trailers, farm vehicles and dealer plates, meanwhile, are also set to climb as of Friday.

Insurance break for snow tire use

Did you put your winter tires on ahead of this week's storm? Good call. Also, call your insurance company in the new year, because they'll be mandated to offer you a discount for installing the seasonal tires.

Businesses face new rules

Large companies — those with 50 or more employees — will have to comply with new rules surrounding accessibility and hiring disabled people.

And speaking of large organizations, politicians will enter 2016 under more scrutiny. All MPPs will be required to post their expenses online as of Jan. 1.


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