Albertans may not receive relief on their utility bills for another seven months despite promises from the provincial government earlier this year.
Bill 18, otherwise known as the Utility Commodity Rebate Act, was tabled by the United Conservative Party on April 20 to allow the government to implement electricity rebate and natural gas rebate programs in Alberta.
At the time, Natural Gas and Electricity Associate Minister Dale Nally estimated Albertans will receive the rebates by the end of summer.
But an order in council signed by the province’s lieutenant-governor on Wednesday indicated that distributors have to provide electricity rebates by no later than Dec. 31 this year.
The NDP slammed the order, saying Albertans are feeling the pinch of skyrocketing utility bills right now.
“Albertans are opening gas and electricity bills that have soared to the hundreds of dollars per month,” energy critic Kathleen Ganley said at a press conference on Thursday afternoon.
“It has been 59 days since (the UCP) promised a rebate on electricity prices and 93 days since they promised a rebate on natural gas prices, but nobody has seen a penny.”
The UCP maintains the delays are due to a technical issue, saying they are working with companies to distribute the rebates to customers as soon as possible.
“It’s a technical issue where electricity retailers have to get the rebates onto people’s bills,” Premier Jason Kenney said at an unrelated press conference on Thursday.
Nally criticized the NDP’s response, saying the Opposition’s statements are filled with “half-truths” and misrepresentation. He said he is confident Albertans can see the electricity rebates this summer and the end-of-year deadline gives companies some room in case customers moved or encounter problems.
“We’re getting this rebate out to 1.9-million Albertans. The vast majority of that will be given out sooner as opposed to later,” Nally told reporters on Thursday.
However, Nally said the natural gas rebate will not kick in until October despite natural gas being priced above the policy threshold. He said 80 per cent of natural gas usage happens between October and March.
“It’s important that we save our gunpowder for when it’s needed, but if things change and we need to act, then we will,” he said.
“This is by far the most generous support of any province in Canada.”
But NDP Leader Rachel Notley is not entirely convinced and accused the UCP of creating a fake rebate program.
“The UCP originally created a rebate program designed to never be used… We’re back to waiting until at least October to see any relief at all,” Notley said.
“They need to give it to Albertans right away. There’s no need for it to be waiting when Albertans are overwhelmed by these costs.”