TORONTO — First Nation leaders say the announcement from Premier Kathleen Wynne committing to eliminate hydro delivery charges for on-reserve citizens, among other benefits, will provide significant financial relief to First Nation communities while strengthening the Political Accord between the Province and First Nations.
“Each one of our community members will benefit from Ontario’s Fair Hydro Plan. This is a step towards reconciliation and recognition of our inherent rights as Treaty Holders,” said Six Nations of the Grand River Chief Ava Hill. “I am grateful that Premier Wynne and Minister Thibeault listened to our concerns and took action.”
Ontario’s Fair Hydro Plan, announced Thursday, would lower electricity bills by 25 per cent on average for all residential consumers in the province. It will also eliminate the monthly service charge for customers of licensed distributors which charge a bundled rate.
“The elimination of the delivery charge will assist our citizens by reducing energy poverty in our communities. It also represents recognition for the use of the land in the development and expansion of the provincial energy grid,” said Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day. “Poverty, lack of opportunity and choosing to pay for electricity over food is a reality that affects our people. [This] commitment by the Ontario government is commendable and allows a path forward for greater quality of life for First Nations in Ontario.”
The plan includes the First Nations On-Reserve Delivery Credit, a complete elimination of the delivery charge for on-reserve First Nations citizens and an overall 25% reduction of the overall bill.
Additional enhanced relief through the Rural or Remote Electricity Rate Protection, at approximately $75 a month for Hydro One R2 customers and $18 month for Hydro One R1 customers.
A New Affordability Fund will provide consumers up front funding for energy conservation measures such as cold climate air source heat pumps, insulation, weather stripping, energy efficient lighting, energy efficient appliances and windows.
Another enhancement is also being added to the Ontario Electricity Support Program which includes indigenous specific support of up to $113.
“We appealed to the Wynne government and they responded, not only to First Nations, but to all Ontarians. We acknowledge Premier Wynne and her cabinet for such a bold and humane decision. This demonstrates that the Wynne government is dedicated to reconciliation through meaningful action,” said Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians Grand Chief Gord Peters. “We got everything we asked for, plus. This strengthens our Political Accord with Ontario and lays a better foundation for further negotiations.”
In June 2016, the Minister of Energy directed the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) to examine options for an on-reserve First Nation Energy Rate. Through the fall of 2016, the Chiefs of Ontario in collaboration with the OEB held a series of engagement sessions with First Nations to capture feedback on current hydro rates, ultimately working towards a First Nations specific rate.
Throughout the sessions, it became clear that current hydro rates were unaffordable and creating an additional level of stress within communities dealing with several other socio-economic issues.
Participants expressed frustration that First Nation citizens were struggling to afford a service that was built upon the resources identified within their Treaties. Based upon the outcomes of this engagement, the Chiefs recommended that the Delivery Charge be waived for First Nation citizens.
The changes are expected to be implemented by the summer of 2017.