Today, the Divisional Court sided with low-income Ontarians to rule that "the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) has the jurisdiction to establish a rate affordability assistance program for low-income consumers."
The Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN)'s representatives Mary Truemner, Acting Director of Legal Services with the legal aid clinic the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, and co-counsel Paul Manning of Willms & Shier Environmental Lawyers LLP were pleased that the Court declared that "to further the objective of protecting 'the interests of consumers' this could mean taking into account income levels and pricing to achieve the delivery of affordable energy to low income consumers ½". They were cautious, however, in responding to the Court's determinations.
"While the Court ruled the OEB has jurisdiction, they did not also determine that the Board must exercise their discretion to set affordable rates for low-income consumers," said Mary Truemner. "It is for this reason that we urge the Minister of Energy to issue a directive that the Ontario Energy Board must design a rate affordability program to minimize the effects of rising energy costs on low-income Ontarians facing choices between heating, eating and paying the rent. The Court noted that "the Minister has not issued any policy statement directing the board to base rates on considerations of the ability to pay."
The Income Security Advocacy Centre, a LIEN member and legal aid clinic, is asking that the government address energy poverty in its Poverty Reduction Strategy.
For more information:
Mary Truemner, ACTO, 416-597-5855 ext. 5163, cell: 416-996-1021
(Toll free in Ontario: 1-866-245-4182 ext. 5163)