Fraser Forum

Trudeau gets a lesson on energy poverty by Ontario resident

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In a video now circulating around the Internet, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gets an earful from a distressed Ontarian over the insane cost of electricity in the province.

Holding a hydro bill of more than $1,000 in her shaking hands, and explaining that her power bill is now more than her mortgage, the disabled grandmother tearfully relates the hardships of living in energy poverty. Hot summer days without power, having to work 75 hours a week just to pay her bills, and living on instant oatmeal and Campbell’s soup. The story is simply heartbreaking, and the applause of others at the town hall meeting shows she’s not the only one feeling the pain of Ontario’s power fiasco.

Indeed, as of 2013 (most recent data available), 7.5 per cent of households in Ontario meet the definition of energy poverty. A household enters into energy poverty when it spends more than 10 per cent of household expenditures on energy used within the home (electricity, natural gas, etc.). If you put gasoline into the mix, then 19.2 per cent of households fit the definition of energy poverty.

Given the hardships many Ontarians face, Prime Minister Trudeau’s response was deeply, deeply unsatisfying. First, he threw not one, but two of his own party’s premiers under the bus, attributing most of the problem to provincial policies. Chief among those policies is the Green Energy Act (GEA), introduced first by former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty, and carried on by current Premier Kathleen Wynne. The results of the GEA—higher electricity prices, paying to export energy to the U.S. at a loss, etc.—have been disastrous for Ontario families and businesses. It’s a shame that the prime minister could not even recognize some of these consequences, particularly given that fact the Premier Wynne has even begun to do so.

But what was more deeply disturbing was that the prime minister showed absolutely no willingness to flex on his plan to bring in a national price floor for carbon that will rise by $10.00 per year starting in 2018, hitting $50.00/tonne of carbon by 2022. His response to having that tax challenged directly was a sermon on the need to stop using fossil fuels, which one presumes includes Alberta’s oilsands and British Columbia’s natural gas.

Perhaps the most ridiculous element of his answer was his observation that the federal government will leave the administration of the new carbon price floor to the provinces—in this case, the very same government that has shown gross ineptitude and outright negligence in managing its energy systems, and this according to its own auditor general!

It’s time for governments across the country to start recognizing that their “green dreams” have serious consequences for ordinary Canadians. If they don’t, Canada will find itself moving upward in the standings of a group it wants no part of—developed countries with high rates of energy poverty.