There is little love among Ontarians for the Liberal government’s hydro relief plan if it comes at the cost of increasing the province’s debt load, suggests a Tuesday morning poll provided exclusively to QP Briefing.
Of the 884 people surveyed by Forum Research, more than half – 56 per cent – do not approve of the plan to reduce electricity bills by an average 17 per cent this summer if it means extending debt down the road.
Thirty-two per cent of respondents said they were in favour of the plan, and 12 per cent said they didn’t know what to think of it.
Premier Kathleen Wynne’s “fair hydro plan” will reduce hydro bills by an average 25 per cent overall, including the eight per cent sales tax cut that took effect in January. Rates will also be held to inflation for four years.
Wynne’s relief package comes at a cost – an extra $25 billion in interest charges over the next 30 years, the government expects. Ontario’s net debt has surpassed $300 billion.
When she introduced the package in early March – 15 months out from the next general election – the premier likened it to extending the term of a mortgage in order to lower the monthly payments.
“It’s obvious that people like the idea of reduced hydro bills, as the cost of hydro is the main issue for many in the province, but the majority don’t approve of the fact that their cheaper monthly hydro bill is going to cost them more in the long run,” said Lorne Bozinoff, president of Forum Research, in a release.
Forty per cent of people who approved of the Liberals' plan said they would vote for the NDP, who have introduced a plan of their own to cut electricity bills by up to 30 per cent, including buying back shares of the now-privatized Hydro One.
The Progressive Conservatives, meanwhile, have yet to reveal details of their own relief package, but 72 per cent of their supporters are against the Liberals' plan, the poll said.
Wealthy, middle-aged men were also most likely to oppose the Grits’ plan, while younger, lower-income people who said they would vote Liberal skewed toward it.
Support for the plan was highest in southwestern and eastern parts of the province, and people living in the 905 and 416 were more likely against it, according to the survey. The Liberals have said their plan would amount to more savings for rural and northern ratepayers, who pay high delivery charges on bills that have roughly doubled provincewide over the past decade.
Forum conducted the survey over the phone from March 28 to March 30, and the margin of error is 3.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.