Any way you look at it, Ontarians have taken a huge hit on the cost of their electricity bills since 2006.
Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government insists while it still has work to do in bringing down electricity prices in Ontario, compared to other jurisdictions in North America, they’re not that bad.
In the face of opposition charges hydro rates in Ontario are now the highest, or among the highest, in North America, the Liberals respond these rates are actually in the middle of the pack.
So, who to believe and what does it mean?
It’s difficult to come up with accurate comparisons of hydro rates across North America because, depending on how they’re calculated, the results can vary dramatically.
However, Hydro Quebec does an annual comparison of residential hydro rates in major North American cities, standardized for a monthly consumption of 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh), with all prices expressed in Canadian currency.
Its 2016 survey found electricity prices for residential customers in Toronto of 17.81 cents per kilowatt/hour and in Ottawa of 16.15 cents per kilowatt/hour.
This was higher than in Vancouver (10.70); Calgary (10.40); Edmonton (10.37); Regina (14.65); Winnipeg (8.43); Montreal (7.23); Halifax (15.88); Moncton (12.50); Charlottetown (16.02); St. John’s (11.96); Seattle (13.62); Portland (13.94); Chicago (15.19); Nashville (14.28); Houston (11.25) and Miami (11.67).
However, Toronto’s and Ottawa’s electricity rates were lower than in San Francisco (31.05); Detroit (20.24); Boston (27.69) and New York (29.52).
From this, it appears Ontario’s residential electricity rates are the highest in Canada — in the surveyed cities — although the Liberals would argue that starting in 2017 they have made prices more competitive by eliminating the 8% provincial portion of the HST on them.
Of equal importance when it comes to pricing, however, is not just the rate itself, but the rate of increase or decrease in electricity prices.
Electricity rates in New York, for example, have long been higher than in Canada, and are part of an overall cost of living people living in any community adjust to over time.
In this context, the sharp increases in Ontario electricity prices are clearly cause for concern.
Brady Yauch, executive director and economist with the Consumer Policy Institute noted in a Toronto Sun column last February that residential electricity prices in Ontario over the previous nine years had increased at a faster rate than anywhere else in North America.
Yauch found prices charged by Hydro One, Toronto Hydro and Hydro Ottawa, providing electricity to almost half of Ontario’s residential customers, rose between 68% and 72%, more than in Canada’s nine other provinces and in the 50 American states, where the average increase during the same period was 22%.
Electricity prices in Ontario also went up much faster than the cost of other goods and services during that period, including food (30%), shelter (20%) and wages (25%).
In other words, any way you look at it, Ontarians have taken a huge hit on the cost of their electricity bills since 2006.