Friday, November 3, 2006

Those pesky electricity "rebate" cheques

The last few days, the McGuinty government has been sending out "Home Electricity Rebate" cheques to low and middle income residents of the province -- and I'm one of the recipients. For all it's worth, the money is helpful. However, like Ernie Eves' similar botched program from three years ago -- when deregulation of the business got totally out of hand -- and Ralph Klein's oil rebate cheques earlier this year which were paid to everyone, there are a few holes in the administration of how it's being doled out.

We were originally told that those who paid for power directly would get a rebate right on their fall utility bill. Instead, realizing that most tenants don't pay for the juice directly, they just decided to write cheques to everyone. Fair enough. But then, in a massive waste of postage and printing costs, they got the Canada Revenue Agency to mail the cheques. Why didn't they just tack it on to the October GST rebate, four weeks ago -- which a lot of us get by direct deposit? When one considers it costs two cents to do an electronic funds transfer but 51 cents PLUS GST to mail a cheque, they blew ... oh, let's see ... well, suppose just two million residents get those rebates. That's about a million dollars, give or take, which could have bought another MRI scanner.

Frankly, I would have rather them kept the money, or as I said given us real tax relief, such as getting rid of the semi-regressive health tax. The price for power has been re-regulated anyway, and giving incentives for people to conserve energy is a lot more efficient. Nice try, Dalton, but coming as it is just a few days before local elections, I don't think people are going to buy it.

If this is going to be an annual event, it should be streamlined with the GST rebate -- just as the provincial child care allowance should be rolled into the federal baby bonus, as it already is in most of the other provinces. Mind you, of course, that would come right when the next provincial election is going to be, too -- so we're probably looking at September next time.

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