Hydro Quebec rates likely to rise
Published Tuesday, September 29, 2009 6:08PM EDT
The Charest government is scrambling for ways to bring in new revenue, as it deals with a huge budget deficit of at least $4 billion.
That amount is growing quickly because of new spending to fight the recession.
The most likely way to generate more revenue is to increase people's electricity bills.
Delegates to a Liberal party conention spent the weekend voting in favour of a long list of fee increases that encompassed everything from toll roads to cegep tuition to Hydro Quebec rate hikes.
However Jean Charest tried to deflect those recommendations by talking about efficiency and reductions in government spending.
"We will take into account what the membership expressed on the weekend. We are going to put that in a broader spectrum of where Quebec needs to go in the next 10 or 20 years," said Charest
But ultimately the government needs more money from taxpayers.
If Quebecers want government services they'll have to pay, and while broad-based fee increases are messy, Finance Minister Raymond Bachand feels a Hydro hike is easier.
"If we have a choice of usage on the wealth of Hydro Quebec, do we use it to reduce our rates or do we use it to pay for the health services? It's a fair question and the debate's been there. No decison has been made," said Bachand.
If the cost of a kilowatt-hour in increased by one penny, the government will gain nearly $2 billion dollars in revenue, and that move can be done without legislation.
The opposition is ready to debate the issue, but Tuesday in the National Assembly Pauline Marois asked "I want to know where Mr. Charest is taking us."
Charest's answer was simple: he showed off a list of pequists who have proposed Hydro rate increases.
The government does not plan to make any concrete move until Bachand tables the next provincial budget, which gives them several months to convince Quebecers that an increased Hydro bill will be the most painless cure for deficit spending.