Use carbon tax revenue to pay utility costs

By: Rob Altemeyer - Wolseley MLA Constituency Report

As published in The Metro

February 14, 2018

A low-income tenant from West Broadway approached me recently with a really great question: how could she afford to stay in her current apartment on a fixed income if electricity costs go up by the 70 per cent requested by Manitoba Hydro’s new Board over several years, plus the added impact of rising home heating costs due to the upcoming carbon tax?

She was glad to hear that I will be introducing new legislation this coming spring designed to help exactly this kind of situation, but I also had to be honest with her— unless there is a dramatic change in policy from the government, she was likely facing a very difficult and completely unfair financial situation.

Low-income tenants aren’t the only ones in this predicament. A community centre in my constituency pays over $20,000 per year in utility bills. A local church that houses multiple community programs pays nearly $60,000.

How are these organizations supposed to absorb massive increases in their utility bills, especially when the government has cut or frozen funding to so many programs already?

These types of stories break my heart, not just for the hardship involved for vulnerable people and the agencies trying to help them, but because this is all just so unnecessary. Manitoba Hydro’s Power Smart programs used to help make buildings more efficient and reduce bills even if rates went up but the government has replaced Power Smart with an entirely new Crown Corporation ironically called “Efficiency Manitoba”.

To date it has no staff, no budget, no programs to offer, and no plan on how to get there.

There is a better way.

Most of my constituents live in older homes built with little insulation and often inefficient heating systems.

Rising utility costs are going to hit these residents the most but, if the government would simply use new carbon tax revenue to provide no-interest loans to people, businesses and agencies, we could all save money by making our buildings more efficient. This would also reduce climate emissions, create more local jobs and improve Hydro’s bottom line when we switch buildings to green energy that uses electricity, such as geothermal.

Now that’s what I call efficiency.