Power price spike hurts small business, consumers in Ontario

WATCH ABOVE: The soaring cost of hydro in Ontario is jeopardizing small business viability, according to a group representing their interests. Sean O'Shea reports.

TORONTO — With the price of electrical power so high, consumers often turn off the lights looking for savings.

Laura Zammit says she doesn’t have a choice except to keep them on.

“When we’re working the first thing we do is turn all the lights on,” said Zammit, one of the owners of 40-year-old independent Toronto business Bernardi’s Antiques.

READ MORE: Highlights of the Ontario auditor general’s 2015 annual report

She says consumers expect to see a brightly-lit store in order to decide whether to buy antique fixtures or other items on display.

“We could sell less lighting but it’s not only lamps we sell,” she says. “I have to use lights in showcases, for example.”

As consumers digest the findings of Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk, who reported Wednesday that consumers saw the cost of electricity in the province rise by 70 per cent between 2006 and 2014, there are growing fears that higher power costs may kill off small business.

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“They don’t want anybody to be critical of what they’ve been doing,” said John Yakabuski, Progressive Conservative energy critic.

“But this is costing you and me and every Ontario consumer of electricity a whole lot of money. The auditor general confirms that.”

The organization representing 109,000 small businesses in Canada says many of its members are at a crossroads because of rising energy prices.

“It’s one of the costs they’re most concerned about,” said Nicole Troster, director of provincial affairs for Ontario for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

“And it’s the type of thing that will close small businesses; or they’ll have to look at cutting hours and cutting positions in order to cope with the increases,” Troster told Global News.

Zammit says her store has purchased energy-efficient light bulbs and invested in other cost-saving devices to reduce costs, but still needs to keep the power on.

“It is frustrating as a small business owner, I don’t think they’re thinking of us,” she said.

“For a large business, it doesn’t affect their bottom line. It does ours.”