Premier Wynne defends her handling of cap-and-trade billing
by Allison Jones, The Canadian Press
A survey by the auditor general found 89 per cent of ratepayers want the cap-and-trade costs clearly displayed on their bill, but the Ontario Energy Board has so far refused to budge
TORONTO—Premier Kathleen Wynne says she is being transparent about cap-and-trade costs for natural gas customers because they know what the average impact will be.
The Liberal government’s cap-and-trade plan is expected to add about $5 a month to home heating costs starting Jan. 1, but those increases will be buried in the “delivery” line on natural gas bills.
The Ontario Energy Board announced earlier this year that cap and trade won’t be a separate line item because the regulator considers them a cost of doing business.
The auditor general commissioned a survey that found 89 per cent of natural gas ratepayers want the cap-and-trade costs clearly displayed, but the regulator has so far stood firm, and the energy minister has said he won’t intervene with the decision of the OEB, as an independent regulator.
Wynne said Wednesday that her government has been clear about the average increase to natural gas bills, so people are aware of that.
“We’ve talked about that for months and so in terms of transparency, we’ve been very transparent,” she said.
NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns said the OEB decision is consistent with the Liberal government’s lack of transparency.
“(Consumers) want to know their cost,” he said. “People aren’t that interested in the averages. They actually want to know how much are they paying.”
Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said cap-and-trade costs should be on natural gas bills, as a much-trumpeted cost saving will on electricity bills.
“If it’s good enough for a PST rebate, it’s good enough for cap and trade,” Brown said.
Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault has said the government has the authority to ensure a planned eight-per-cent rebate appears on hydro bills, but the OEB is responsible for natural gas.
The OEB consulted 80 stakeholder groups before making its decision—and 75 of them wanted to see costs broken out on consumers’ bills, the auditor noted. That includes the Independent Electricity System Operator and the gas companies themselves.
The OEB has said it “makes sense” to include cap-and-trade costs in the delivery line, with the other natural gas business costs, and that the most important driver of consumer behaviour is total price.