Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says it is unacceptable that a Kingston mother had to choose between paying her grocery bills or having power in her home due to the skyrocketing cost of electricity in the province.
“We need to do more and it is unacceptable to me that people have to make those kinds of choices,” Wynne said when questioned by NDP Leader Andrea Horwath during question period at the Ontario legislature Wednesday morning.
“We recognize that there is still more we need to do to take costs off people’s bills. So the status quo is not acceptable.”
Horwath cited a Global News report in which a single mother in Kingston made the painful decision to opt out of paying for electricity in her home in order to put food on the table.
“I couldn’t keep up. The bills were just getting too high,” said Jane, a pseudonym as Global News has agreed to keep their family’s identity private. “I just had to decide, either groceries or hydro. Which one do you pay? And obviously groceries won.”
The NDP leader said the province’s plan to privatize Hydro One will force electricity rates even higher.
“More privatization in the electricity system will absolutely make things much much worse and its unbelievable that this premier does not accept that fact,” Horwath said.
At the Ontario Liberals’ annual general meeting on Saturday, Wynne said the rising hydro costs was her “mistake.”
An eight-per-cent rebate on electricity bills comes into effect Jan. 1, but Wynne said she will find more ways to lower rates and reduce the burden on consumers.
“What we have done is change the system, clean up the system, clean up the mess left by previous governments, not just the Conservatives but the NDP as well, and in doing so there have been costs associated with that clean up,” Wynne said on Wednesday.
The Kingston mother told Global News it was a $300 late payment that caused Kingston Hydro to disconnect her and her son from their electricity services.
Kingston Hydro disconnected 639 residential customers in 2015. This figure represents roughly 2.5 per cent of the utility’s 27,000 customers.
Overall, Kingston Hydro ranked 13th out of 75 utility distributors in Ontario in 2015 for the total percentage of customers they disconnected.