Rising power rates a shock to system

By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on October 8, 2014.

We once had a slogan in this province – The Alberta Advantage.

It was a hallmark of the Ralph Klein era, when seemingly nothing could go wrong for Alberta. The premier, who came into power in 1992, made austerity a trend long before it would catch on decades later in the European Union, as cuts to spending and the creation of a business-friendly environment, partly through corporate tax cuts, made our province the envy of everyone else in Canada.

As oil and gas revenues skyrocketed, and billion-dollar surplus budgets were the norm, large companies, and a substantial amount of newcomers, made their way to Alberta to bask in the glow of success. The province was a juggernaut and not only were corporations raking in solid profits, but everyday, average workers were also making strides.

On both of those fronts, that momentum has stalled. Alberta has not been able to balance the budget in recent years and while a select few corporate entities have been able to thrive, the business community is feeling the squeeze, just like regular Albertans.

Coverage from Monday’s finance committee meeting paints that picture on a few fronts, as “rising costs” is a common theme. Council learned homeowners and businesses will be hit with more electricity rate increases, with more substantial increases on the way. Alberta’s transmission access fees could be hiked by 10 per cent each year in the near future, a direct result of the province’s steadfast support for new high-capacity power lines linking Calgary and Edmonton.

Already, power users are saddled with charges and fees which make actual power consumption a small percentage of an actual bill. Local access fees, administration fees, rate riders and transmission charges are factored in to a bill the government seems powerless to help control. It has left homeowners with yet another expense which is climbing out of control and business owners questioning their long-term futures in the province.

Electricity rates are only part of the equation as to why Alberta’s economy is not as red hot as it once was. Truth be told, the type of roll the province was on during part of the Klein years really was not sustainable in the long term. Boom-and-bust cycles are all too common in Alberta, and the boom helped skew the equation for many long-time residents and newcomers alike.

But what it did do was help give a handful of large corporations a very significant leg up, which still exists today, to the detriment of many. Citizens and businesses are paying the collective price of deregulation, which has shifted the balance of power in this province, literally and figuratively, as Albertans continue to be on the hook for expensive projects, like the high capacity power lines, which amount to little more than corporate welfare.

There was a time when the Alberta Advantage meant something to a very large portion of the population. Today, even though the motto has been scrapped, it still rings true for a very select few.

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