Ontario to spend $5.5M advertising hydro bill cuts, documents show
Opposition accuses Wynne government of using taxpayers' money to make the Liberals look good.
TORONTO — Ontario’s Liberal government has earmarked $5.5 million to advertise cuts to hydro bills – ads the opposition says use public money to make the Liberal party look good.
In response to a freedom of information request by the New Democrats, government documents show that $1.2 million had been spent as of March 31 and that the total budget is over two years.
A set of radio ads this year have told listeners that people would receive an average of 25 per cent off their hydro bills this summer and rate increases are being held to inflation for four years.
Ontario’s auditor general has said the ads could be considered partisan.
Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault says the ads are necessary to inform people about bill reductions so they can adjust their household budgets.
But NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says people can tell their bills have gone down simply by looking at them.
Part of the Liberals’ hydro plan is increasing the benefits available under a low-income support program, which Thibeault cited as another reason the advertising is important, because the program requires people to sign up.
But despite the advertising so far, not as many eligible people have signed up as the government was hoping.
The program could give additional credits – on top of the 25% reduction – on 500,000 people’s electricity bills, but so far about 300,000 people have applied, with 190,000 having successfully signed up, Thibeault said.