Albertans facing skyrocketing bills from heating their home with natural gas will be getting some relief — next winter.
On Thursday, the 2022 Alberta budget revealed some details on how the announced rebate for natural gas bills will work.
“If natural gas prices exceed $6.50 a gigajoule (GJ), a utilities rebate will be triggered,” Finance Minister Travis Toews announced.
“This means Albertans needn’t fear a run up in natural gas prices of the variety currently experienced in Europe and Asia.”
The budget document went into more detail.
“Should regulated natural gas companies charge regulated rates above $6.50/GJ between October 2022 and March 2023,” the budget reads. “Most households, small apartment buildings, farms, and small industrial and commercial businesses will be eligible under this program.”
A government news release said the program will be available to customers who use less than 2,500 gigajoules annually. Further details are expected on the program at a later date.
“We’ve patterned this consumer price protection measure after the measure that Ralph Klein brought in way back in 2003. That was a time when natural gas prices were going up,” Toews told Global News.
That Natural Gas Rebate Program came into effect at $5.50 per GJ. The government at the time capped natural gas prices at $8.75 per GJ.
“We’re taking the same approach,” Toews said. “If we would use the CPI (Consumer Price Index) adjuster, it would actually put that target price at $6.80. We’ve actually dropped that target to $6.50.
“So if prices exceed $6.50 in any given month, there will be a rebate, there will be price protection for the consumers.”
The Natural Gas Rebate Program was shuttered in 2009 after providing $1.9 billion in assistance to Albertans.
In an interview on Shaye Ganam on Corus Radio Friday morning, Toews said if the natural gas prices spike before October, the government would consider bringing in price protection measures sooner.
“Realistically, with what we see going on in Europe right now, the tragedy we see taking place in Ukraine, we could see natural gas spikes over the next number of months,” he said.
Opposition leader Rachel Notley said she was shocked to hear the government wasn’t offering support for outsized utility bills Albertans are having to pay right now.
“I was shocked that this government put nothing in this budget to help with the sky-high bills Albertans are paying right now. Not a cent,” Notley said after the budget was tabled.
“For both gas and electricity, Albertans are on their own this winter.”
And she took umbrage with the triggering rate of $6.50 per GJ, “a rate that their own budget says we will never reach.”Alberta
“No help is coming for their utility bills now.”
Notley pointed to rising costs of living due to things like car insurance, tuition, income tax, and provincial and school fees.
“The UCP is not fooling anybody. It’s clear that families are bearing the brunt of the pain of this fiscal recovery, while CEOs and shareholders, well, they’re sleeping quite soundly,” Notley said.
– With a file from Kirby Bourne, 630 CHED