QUEBEC CITY -- Pressure is mounting on the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government to freeze hydroelectricity rates.

On Monday, Québec solidaire (QS) public finance critic Ruba Ghazal presented her party's pre-budget expectations, calling for a freeze on Hydro-Quebec's rates.

The Crown corporation had announced that it would increase them this year and in 2023 in line with the rate of inflation.

"I have people ... who tell me their grocery bill is going through the roof, their rent is going up, the Hydro-Quebec bill ... Everything costs more," Ghazal said at a press conference in Quebec City.

She reiterated worries by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), Option consommateurs and the Quebec Association of Industrial Electricity Consumers (AQCIE) who say the price hike would affect people across all sectors.

On Sunday, the Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) had also demanded a freeze on electricity rates.

The opposition parties and stakeholders say they want the government to call on the Régie de l'énergie to ensure that consumers do not pay more than necessary to Hydro-Quebec.

In 2019, the Legault government removed the power of the Régie to set Hydro-Quebec's rates annually and instead subjected them to the vagaries of the economy, Ghazal explained.

The current "cost of living crisis" shows that this was a "bad" decision, she argues.

"I was there when the government shoved this bill down our throats, under the gag order ... We told them it was going to cost a lot of money," she said. "It will be very important that the government backs down and says it will freeze Hydro-Quebec rates ... because it hurts families who see their Hydro-Quebec bill increase."


Her party also wants the government to double the solidarity tax credit for six months and add an additional $500 bonus for seniors aged 65 and over.

The party calculates that a family with two children could receive up to $2,340, while a senior living alone could receive up to $2,042.

"There are 3.3 million Quebecers who receive the solidarity tax credit. It is the best tool the government has in its hands to quickly help the people who need it most," said Ghazal.

Other demands from QS include that the government make "major" investments in the public health care system without helping the private sector.

QS also wants the government to refrain from investing in a third road link between Quebec City and Lévis and from widening highways, saying it would prefer that the money be transferred to public transit projects.

Finance Minister Éric Girard is expected to present the Quebec budget on March 22.

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on March 14, 2022.