/Rough ride for rural Ontario

Rough ride for rural Ontario

By Chad Ingram

Published Oct. 20 2016

It’s a tough time to be a rural Ontarian.

In a province where a continually greater percentage of the population lives in urban areas a continually greater percentage of legislators represent urban constituencies.

Small communities don’t have the same pull in Queen’s Park they did decades ago and the reality is that most of the people setting provincial policy don’t understand the unique challenges and struggles of rural regions.

Take the price of electricity and the Wynne government’s delayed reaction to it as an example.

It took a by-election loss this summer in a GTA riding long held by the Liberal party to get the Premier to take any action on Hydro One bills.

Campaign teams said the price of electricity was the No. 1 issue they heard about as they went knocking on people’s doors.

The price of electricity has been a major issue in Haliburton County and other rural communities for several years. While wages in these areas are typically lower than in cities people pay more for power because of “delivery charges” from Hydro One. With bills into the hundreds of dollars a month for some households many of us know people who’ve been pushed to the brink of deciding whether to pay their hydro bill or heat their home for the month. Or resorted to the use of the food bank in order to keep the lights on.

This for a utility that is a basic necessity of life in North America.

Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott actually has a staff member whose primary function it is to field calls and answer correspondence regarding hydro bills.

To say that the Wynne/McGuinty government has mishandled the energy file in this province is an understatement. And while it’s true it inherited some complications from its predecessors this is a government that has now been in power for 13 years and which during the last decade has allowed electricity prices in Ontario to double to become the highest on the continent.

Many Ontarians cannot pay their hydro bills and are in collective arrears to the tune of nearly $200 million.

The auditor general has said that since 2006 Ontarians have been overcharged $37 billion for electricity due to overpriced green energy poor planning and the sloppy mess that is Hydro One itself.

Those may not have been her exact words.

The mismanagement of Hydro One is a column onto itself. There’s not enough room to get into it here.

The point is that while rural communities have been crying foul over electricity rates for years and years it took that albatross coming home to roost in the GTA for the province to actually do anything about it.

Wynne has said the government will cancel some $3.8 billion in green energy projects to save Ontarians a whopping $2.45 on their electricity bills and additional relief has been promised for those in rural areas.

With the 2018 election beginning to show on the distant horizon it would behoove the Premier to pay closer attention to the needs of all Ontarians.

Lest the lights go out on her.