Over the last six months or so, there’s been a lot of discussion about the unaffordable price of electricity. There’s absolutely no arguing the impact of the high cost of electricity. Some politicians claim that the high cost of electricity in Ontario is forcing people from their homes and is causing businesses to move or close. For those who are forced by their landlords to heat their homes with electricity, this has been an especially difficult winter that seemed to last forever. There are still too many rental units in North Grenville that use electricity to heat. One person mentioned that their monthly hydro bill from February was over $300. Thankfully, most of us don’t have this problem, but still too many in North Grenville do. Something needs to be done about the cost of electricity. But something that these politicians never seem to mention is the lack of affordable housing (that’s a topic for another time), the rising costs of municipal water & sewer and the increasing cost of natural gas. Why don’t the politicians talk about these things? The reason is that they’re trying to score political points instead of having a real discussion about ALL of the reasons why running a business and keeping a home are now becoming unaffordable. For today, let’s look at both natural gas and municipal water & sewer for the home.

First off, let’s talk about our own bi-monthly municipal water & sewer bill. For those of you on wells and septic systems, you’ve got your own expenses in relation to these utilities but keep reading for amusement. The minimum bi-monthly charge for water & sewer service currently for a single dwelling unit in Kemptville is $113.06 which includes 5 cubic metres of water. If a home exceeds their bi-monthly allotment of five cubic metres, then they are charged an additional $3.04 per cubic metre. However, were you aware that not only is the minimum bi-monthly charge for water & sewer going up by approximately 5.2% each year over the next two years, but the charge for each cubic metre is also going up by approximately 4% each of those years as well? The previous council approved a by-law that will have increased the minimum bi-monthly charge for water & sewer a whopping 26% from October 2012 to October 2016. The charge for each additional cubic metre of water will also have gone up 20% over that same period. That’s right, the current mayor and two councillors saw no problem voting for this increase in their last term.

The other utility we need to consider is natural gas. Some residents that use natural gas to heat their homes have Enbridge as their natural gas supplier. In the coldest month of the winter, which was February, the average temperature was -16.8 which was a record low. When I looked at the natural gas bill for February, the gas supply rate was 18.316 cents per cubic metre compared to the rate for March which was 14.45 cents per cubic metre. So when we didn’t heat as much, the price dropped 27%. Just a coincidence, I’m sure. Here’s what the Ontario Energy Board has to say about rate changes for natural gas “Natural gas is a commodity that is traded on North American markets. Market prices fluctuate daily, rising and falling based on supply and demand (how much is available and how many people/businesses need it)”. This doesn’t seem to be the case because everyone needed it in February, but the price was still very high. As soon as demand went down in March, the price went down. Further, the Ontario Energy Board says this “Every three months, each utility asks the energy board to adjust its rates to cover the ‘future costs’ and ‘past costs’. Future costs means that “the utility estimates the market price for the next twelve months and this is to help calculate the rate to charge customers.” The past costs are “the difference between what was forecast to be paid the last time and what was actually paid.” Then the gas rate is adjusted up or down depending on whether the previous rate was too high or too low compared to the actual market price during that time. The problem is, you don’t get any money back from Enbridge for them overcharging you, instead, you just get a lower rate (for the warmer months) when you don’t use even close to the same amount.

So the next time a politician starts talking about the high cost of electricity, stop them and ask them what they’re also going to do about Enbridge who charged you 27% more for your natural gas this winter when you needed it most? Maybe also ask them what they’re going to do about the 26% increase to your municipal water & sewer rates? The basic necessities involved in keeping a home (and running a business) are becoming unaffordable for too many residents of North Grenville and I have feeling that those politicians don’t have an answer.

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