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Ontario Premier says 'message received' about soaring electric rates following green legislation

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Across the border in Niagara Falls, an estimated 200 business leaders had lunch yesterday with the Ontario Premier, during which she admitted receiving a loud-and-clear message about soaring hydroelectric rates in the province. They are costs that have risen sharply in the decade since Ontario enacted legislation that seeks more renewable energy production.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne addressed a luncheon sponsored by the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce, hosted inside the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls. Inside, Wynne admitted that yes, the implementation of the Ontario Green Energy and Green Economy Act has proven expensive for hydroelectric customers.

The province is taking measures to ease that burden, she said, by halting further renewable energy projects and creating initiatives that are designed to reverse the upward climb of electric bills.

"The Industrial Conservation Initiative, or ICI, was first created for big industry," Wynne said. "About 300 businesses qualified in that initial project. They achieved cost savings up to 34 percent in their bills. So the program works."

Wynne says the program will expand to include about 1,000 additional businesses.

Outside, protesters included homeowners who expressed frustration at skyrocketing costs. According to the Financial Post, those prices have risen in spite of the fact that supply has risen while demand has fallen.

"Back in 2006, we were paying three to seven to ten cents, depending on the peak time we were using it," said Leanna Villella of Welland, Ontario. "We're now paying double or triple that."

Wynne says the move to clean energy was a needed investment that has saved the province more than four billion dollars in health care costs.

Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO
Protesters outside Scotiabank Convention Centre make their feelings known about the Premier and the province's rising hydroelectric rates amidst a clean energy initiative.

"The system was a mess," Wynne told the audience. "Smog days were a more reliable fact of life in Ontario than lights being on and that was an unacceptable situation. Today, electricity is dependable and 90 percent emissions free."

Especially frustrating to those protesting outside is the fact that their rates are growing even with a mammoth hydroelectric plant located just a short drive north along the Niagara River.

While that might sound familiar to some Western New Yorkers, folks on this side may get little if any sympathy from folks across the border.

"We sell it to you for pennies on the dollar," Villella said. "You guys are lucky in the States. We end up picking up the cost of that, the disparate amount between the cost of hydro and what's used. We're fighting that. We want the same fairness here in Ontario that other provinces and the United States get to benefit from."

When a fellow protester recognized the presence of an American media outlet covering Wynne's visit, he offered a mix of Canadian and American politics through his megaphone, suggesting Premier Wynne be sent to the same prison as presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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