An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
THE HYDRO BILL for our house arrived the other day. It was shocking.
We’re used to high electricity bills in December and January but this one was truly a jaw-dropper. It was double what it normally is for this time of year, to the tune of several hundred dollars more.
Even though the cost per kilowatt hour has dropped slightly (thanks to a rate review last year), our usage is up substantially, which is consistent with what Hydro has experienced for the past year due in large part to extremes in heat and cold.
Already this winter we’ve had a couple of lengthy cold snaps. Even though we’ve turned down the thermostat, it doesn’t seem to make much difference. The fact we live rurally and must use electricity for heat means we’ve always had high hydro bills but the issue is the dramatic increase in those costs.
Summer is as bad as winter. According to BC Hydro, the demand for electricity last summer broke records as we all cranked up our air conditioners. (Air conditioning used to be a luxury — now, without it, people can die.)
Besides dramatic weather events, the new working-from-home culture caused by the pandemic has put extra strain on home heating and cooling. So, the pandemic and climate change are ganging up on us and costing us an arm and a leg.
No doubt, those on gas face similar challenges. Which brings me to the annoyance of having to pay a five-percent GST on heating and cooling. When bills reach into the several-hundreds-of-dollars range, that tax becomes significant.
Businesses are getting government help paying their hydro bills; why not Joe and Josephine Homeowner? At the least, the threshold for the lower Step One rate needs to be raised.
Heating a home is controllable within limits but it’s not just a nice-to-have. The ‘S’ in GST is for “service.” What we need is an “essential service” exemption.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.