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Editorials Globe editorial: Lower electricity rates? Don’t fall for Premier Wynne’s power move

The rise in the cost of electricity in Ontario over the Liberal Party's time in office has been staggering, and painful. Here's just one example of how it has gone up:

In November, 2007, the highest rate for households, during peak hours, was 8.7 cents per kilowatt/hour. Less than a decade later, it's the lowest rate – the one you get for using your dryer at midnight. The highest rate, for use during peak hours, is 18 cents per kWh.

That 107-per-cent increase in the peak rate is roughly six times the rate of inflation over the same period.

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The province's manufacturing sector, meanwhile, has been walloped by the highest industrial rates in Canada, and among the highest in North America, according to the Association of Major Power Consumers in Ontario.

The blame for this falls squarely on the consecutive Liberal governments of former premier Dalton McGuinty and his successor, Premier Kathleen Wynne, in power since 2003. Their mismanagement of Ontario's power system has led to today.

And now Premier Wynne is trying to cash in on that legacy. In an act of high political chutzpah, she has announced a plan to lower consumers' electricity bills by 25 per cent just in time for next year's general election.

Do not be fooled. She isn't fixing the electricity system mess. She isn't lowering the extortionate system costs created by a decade of poor choices and mismanagement of the province's power system. She's simply rigging consumers' bills during an election year.

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Some of the reduction comes from the elimination of the provincial sales tax on electricity sales. Most of the rest comes from the refinancing of the provincial utility's debts – a move that will cut repayment costs by $2.5-billion a year over the next 10 years, but add $25-billion in interest costs over 30 years.

News flash: Extending your mortgage repayment period doesn't actually lower your mortgage.

Basically, a Liberal premier has found yet another way to make Ontarians pay more for electricity, but this one is selling it as the act of a thoughtful government coming to the aid of consumers beleaguered by high electricity generation costs that somehow, gosh, just got that way on their own.

How rich is that. Ontarians may welcome this immediate dose of much-needed cash-flow relief, but in the long run they'll be the ones paying for it. As voters, they should think twice before rewarding the Liberals for this gift bought with their own money.

Note to readers This editorial has been modified to reflect the following correction: The refinancing of the provincial utility's debts will add $25-billion in interest costs over 30 years, not $14-billion as previously stated.

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