Albertans are getting a bit more relief on soaring electricity costs.
Premier Jason Kenney said the province will extend its previously announced $50 electricity bill rebates for an additional three months.
“We know Albertans are struggling with the rising cost of living, especially energy inflation that’s driving so much of that,” Kenney said in an interview with Global News on Tuesday, prior to the province publicly announcing the rebate extension on Wednesday.
“We’re hearing from Albertans that more has to be done to help them cope with this cost-of-living crisis. So we’re extending by another three months, the $50-a-month rebate that people will be getting on their electricity bill.
“This will go to nearly two million households.”
The province announced earlier this year that more than 1.9 million Alberta homes, farms and small businesses will receive monthly credits of $50 on their July, August and September electricity bills — for a total of $150.
Now, eligible Albertans will also see that $50 rebate for a total of six months, through December.
“That’s $300 in relief for 1.9 million households, on top of the 13 cents abatement on the fuel gasoline tax and the natural gas rebate,” the premier said.
“The bottom line… is that people are getting real hard cash back.”
Kenney said the electricity rebate program will offer about $600 million in relief through 2022.
In a news release Wednesday morning, the associate minister of Natural Gas and Electricity said doubling the rebate will help reduce the financial burden that many families are facing.
“This move will help millions of families and business owners pay their bills and keep their lights on while we continue working to build a stronger, more affordable long-term electricity system,” Dale Nally said.
On Tuesday, Alberta NDP Energy Critic Kathleen Ganley said the $50 rebate amount is far too small at a time when Albertans are facing “a cost-of-living crisis like never before.”
“Some bills are hundreds of dollars a month higher than they were at this time last year,” Ganley said. “This amount is far too small, and by October, higher bills will probably be back.
“It’s still our position that the $50 is insufficient. We still think there is a lot more that the government should be doing.”
Ganley called on the government to extend the rebate program through the winter.
“Because of repeated delays in getting these rebates out the doors, Albertans are going to see these rebates stop — likely in November or December — when prices are likely to be spiking again,” she said.
“Albertans deserve to know that they have a government that has their backs… we’re asking them to do just a little bit more than they’ve done.”
Mount Royal University political scientist Lori Williams suggests the relief won’t address the root problem of rising utility prices. Instead, she thinks regulating the amount people pay would be more appealing to Albertans.
“Given that the government right now is awash in cash and will be for the foreseeable future, it becomes increasingly difficult to say that it’s not a justified expense,” Williams said.
“After all, if the oil revenues are coming from resources that belong to Albertans, then enjoying at least some relief in terms of the high costs that they’re struggling with seems to many people, a more palatable alternative.”
Kenney said Tuesday that the province is looking at other measures to help Albertans with the cost of living, but added the government needs to be prudent.
“It was not that long ago — just a few months ago — that we were still in a deficit as a province. One thing we know about oil and gas prices in this province is that they fluctuate. What goes up will come down. So before we consider any other options, we need to make sure that we are on solid fiscal ground, that we’ve got durable surpluses.”
The province previously said Albertans who are currently connected to the system that have consumed electricity in the past calendar year — up to a maximum of 250 megawatt hours per year — are automatically eligible for the rebates.
The government said the $50 rebates will be automatic on eligible people’s bills; Albertans do not need to apply to receive a rebate.
The rebate will be listed on each bill as a line item titled “GOA Utility Commodity Rebate.”