QUEEN’S PARK — In question period on Tuesday, Ontario NDP Energy critic Peter Tabuns called on the Wynne Liberals to stand up for Ontario families and direct the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) to stop the privatized Hydro One’s plan to require pre-payment for power.
Hidden in Hydro One’s distribution rate application for 2018-2022 are plans to replace recently installed smart meters with pre-payment meters, requiring customers to pay for electricity before they use it and creating a loophole to new rules banning winter disconnections.
“Instead of reducing its rates, as the government promised would happen, the privatized Hydro One is seeking a 20 percent increase,” said Tabuns. “But there’s more. On page 2,038 of the application, we learn that Hydro One wants to install pre-payment meters, which require the customer to pay first before they get any electricity.
“Everywhere pre-payment meters have been used, they have hurt struggling families.”
Recently, the OEB issued a directive banning licensed electricity distributors from disconnecting homes for non-payment during winter months, but pre-payment meters would allow Hydro One to bypass this rule. Tabuns said the Liberal government is allowing the privatized Hydro One to use harmful Thatcher-era tactics to bypass the OEB directive and stop providing power to families that are unable to pay.
“After Margaret Thatcher privatized the UK’s water system, utilities began installing these pre-payment meters,” said Tabuns. “They hurt struggling families and created a public health crisis. The premier has hurt families in Ontario by privatizing Hydro One. Hydro One is installing pre-payment hydro meters so it can bypass Ontario’s rules for disconnections. Hydro One won’t have to disconnect anyone. The power will get cut off automatically if the customer doesn’t feed the meter.”
“Will the government direct the Ontario Energy Board to prohibit Hydro One’s use of pre-payment meters?” asked Tabuns.
Ontario Legislature Hansard
Mr. Peter Tabuns: My question is to the Minister of Energy. In March, the privatized Hydro One filed its distribution rate applications for 2018 to 2022. Instead of reducing its rates, as the government promised would happen, the privatized Hydro One is seeking a 20% increase.
But there’s more. On page 2038 of the application, we learn that Hydro One wants to install prepayment meters, which require the customer to pay first before they get any electricity. Everywhere that prepayment meters have been used, they have hurt struggling families.
Hon. Glenn Thibeault: As the OEB is the quasi-judicial organization and our regulator in the province, their mandate is to have the ratepayers’ best interests in mind, and so we leave the decisions, when it comes to rate applications, to the OEB.
When it comes to Hydro One and their rate application, it is also important, Mr. Speaker, to say that the OEB is reviewing this and, again, there will be no increase more than the cost of inflation for the next four years. That was part of the fair hydro plan that that member and that party voted against—making sure that ratepayers actually had that 25% reduction.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Again to the minister: After Margaret Thatcher privatized the UK’s water system, utilities began installing these prepayment meters. They hurt struggling families and they created a public health crisis.
Hydro One’s installation of prepayment hydro meters would bypass Ontario’s rules for disconnections. Hydro One won’t have to disconnect anyone; the power will be cut off automatically if the customer doesn’t feed the meter.
Hon. Glenn Thibeault: Again, this is an application that is before the OEB, and the OEB, as the quasi-judicial regulator of our electricity system and our energy system, is reviewing every application with the ratepayers’ best interests in mind.
I know the member opposite mentioned the importance of protecting the interests of the people of Ontario, and that’s what this government has done by bringing forward the fair hydro plan and reducing rates by 25%.
But on top of that, with the broadening of ownership of Hydro One, not only have we seen reductions of anywhere between 40% and 50%, but we’re actually seeing a $13.5-billion investment in the GTHA GO regional express rail. It’s going to quadruple the number of weekly trips to 6,000. There’s $5.3 billion in the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, $1 billion in Ottawa’s LRT, $43 million in Waterloo regional transit and the list goes on.