Hydro bills put community centres at risk

ECHO BAY, ON – On Saturday, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath joined the leadership of Echo Bay, Desbarats, Bruce Mines, Hilton Beach and the Township of St. Joseph to speak out about skyrocketing hydro bills – which are putting their community hubs at risk.

“The Johnson Township Community Centre Arena in Desbarats is a community hub for people from all over the region,” said Horwath. “Generations of families have precious memories here – but with out-of-control hydro bills, the rink has come to a tipping point. The next generation will lose out if the Desbarats rink collapses under the weight of the Liberal government’s out-of-control hydro bills.”

Horwath was joined by Echo Bay Mayor Lynn Watson; Desbarats Mayor Ted Hicks; Bruce Mines Mayor Lory Patteri; Hilton Beach Mayor Robert Hope and the Township of St. Joseph Mayor Jody Wildman – along with NDP MPP Michael Mantha and Sault Ste. Marie Councillor Joe Krmpotich.

All pointed to major affordability concerns for their towns’ facilities – many of which may not survive – thanks to big hydro bills.

“We all know that fitness and recreation are a very important part of family life,” said Hicks. “The costs to operate our rec-centres will, no doubt, fall to families – and these are the same families who are being punished by rising energy costs. I think it would be safe to assume that many children will be the victims, as families must decide what they can or cannot afford.”

Hicks said the cost of electricity at the Desbarats rink is now over $52,000 per year – more than 40 per cent of the rink’s annual total costs. He added that his community’s street lights, municipal offices, garages and water and sewer operations are strained under the weight of hydro bills, too. The hydro bill at the Desbarats water plant increased by nearly 30 per cent in just one year, from 2015 to 2016.

Horwath and the NDP have released a comprehensive plan to cut all hydro bills by as much as 30 per cent. It includes ending time-of-use pricing and premium delivery charges. Because Horwath’s plan includes returning Hydro One to public hands, it will also return billions of dollars to Ontario.

By the end of the past week, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced a borrowing scheme to temporarily lower some hydro bills – but that will cost Ontario as much as $40 billion in extra interest charges, and largely excludes commercial users from any relief.

“Premier Wynne just doesn’t get it,” Horwath said. “Government should be about giving people in Ontario the opportunity to build a great life, no matter where they live in this great province – including great communities like Desbarats, Echo Bay and Sault Ste. Marie.”

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