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What to do about high utility prices

Town of Barrhead councillors throw their support behind a proposed Grande Prairie Alberta Municipalities resolution on high utility prices
Ty Assaf May 10, 2022 copy
Town of Barrhead councillor Ty Assaf suggested during the May 10 council meeting that council should throw its support behind a resolution the City of Grande Prairie plans to present at Alberta Municipality's fall conference in September.

BARRHEAD - Town of Barrhead councillors plan to throw their support behind a proposed resolution the City of Grande Prairie will present at the Alberta Municipalities (AM) fall conference, even without knowing the precise details just yet.

Alberta Municipalities, formerly known as the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, is an advocacy group that works to lobby the provincial and federal governments on issues concerning its members (summer villages, villages, towns, cities and other specialized municipalities). 

On May 10, Coun. Ty Assaf moved that council support the city's proposed resolution about high natural gas and electricity rates and transmission fees.

Council first discussed the issue of high utility costs during the April 12 meeting in response to a letter they received from the Town of Fox Creek that was sent to the Alberta Utilities Commission.

In the letter, Fox Creek mayor Sheila Gilmour asked the commission to review the transmission rates utility companies are charging on top of the commodity price, because the rising rates are impacting residents who already struggle to make ends meet. She added the increased utility costs were impacting non-profit groups that support residents who may be struggling financially as well.

At the April 12 meeting, at Assaf's request, council instructed administration to report back if Fox Creek or any other municipality planned to bring the issues raised in the letter to the 2022 AM conference in September.

Chief administrative officer Edward LeBlanc said that after discussing it with his Fox Creek counterpart, he confirmed that the community would not be forwarding a resolution to AM. However, he did learn that Grande Prairie is.

"It is in regards to equalization of distribution costs, so it is not quite the same thing," he said.

Grande Prairie’s resolution notes residents and businesses in urban centres within ATCO and FORTIS Alberta service areas pay much higher distribution and transmission rates than warranted as they are subsidizing rural areas with lower property densities.

As a result, the resolution calls upon AM to advocate for the Alberta government to “reduce the disparity in electricity pricing for transmission and distribution across the province.”

It is important to remember this is a draft resolution and that some of the wording and the background included may change before the May 30 submission deadline.

LeBlanc said there could also be some potentially good news, on the horizon, for Alberta electricity and natural gas customers.

On April 20, Associate Minister of Natural Gas and Electricity Dale Nally tabled Bill 18, the Utility Commodity Rebate Act. If passed, the legislation will allow the government to add rebates to power and natural gas bills.

The first rebate would kick in once natural gas prices rates surpass $6.50 a gigajoule. As for electricity, few details are known, but it is believed Albertans would see rebates of $50 a month for the first three months of 2023.

Assaf said he would be pleased to sponsor the Grande Prairie resolution, suggesting they contact the municipality and offer to second the resolution.

"We might be a small little town, but we still have ratepayers who can't keep up with the rising cost of utilities," he said. "Of all the years I have gone to (AM conferences) and all the resolutions I have listened to, this one will strike out hard and garner lots of support."

Coun. Dausen Kluin, who was acting as chair for the meeting in mayor Dave McKenzie’s absence, said he "wholeheartedly agreed.”

Coun. Don Smith said he also supported the proposed resolution but noted that contacting the city beforehand to offer to second the resolution wasn't necessary, adding that is something that happens on the floor of the convention.

He also doubted there would be a shortage of municipalities to endorse the resolution.

Barry Kerton, TownandCountryToday.com

 



Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
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