Parker Gallant: Ontario’s big LEAP: Low-income Energy Assistance Program

(September 14, 2013) The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) just released their 2nd annual report on LEAP and after reading it and relating it to the money being passed around it does give you an inspiration to do just that—leap!

The money doled out to the 8,053 recipients (electricity related) in 2012 totaled $3,476,933, or an average of $431,76 per grant. To put the total monies granted in perspective, it cost ratepayers 3/1000th of a cent per kilowatt.

If we look at the cost to ratepayers to pay for the top five executives at, say, Hydro One Networks, Toronto Hydro and the OEB, the cost for those 15 people, according to the 2012 “Sunshine List”, was $7,171,000, or $478,000 eachenough to cover in excess of another 17,000 grants and comfortably enough to place those 15 senior public service executives in the top 1% of Canadian income earners, where the qualifying income was a meager $191,000 according to a recent Statistics Canada release. Even the OEB’s top five executives, who administer the LEAP program, earned a combined $1,843,000 or enough to cover another 4,270 grants.

There are some out there who might say, well, why do we need the LEAP program? That is a valid question but if you are spending 10% or more of your income on energy (remember it’s not just electricity) you’re considered to be in “energy poverty”. What created energy poverty in Ontario? I would be remiss if I didn’t point to the Liberal government’s arbitrary decision that Ontario should accept the teachings of David Suzuki and Bob Dole leading them to decide that wind and solar generation was the nirvana and coal plants were the hell of the electricity system. Paying exorbitant rates to mainly foreign developers to erect industrial wind turbines and solar panels throughout the province are the principal cause of rocketing electricity prices.

Dwight Duncan began the process of examining low-income earners driven to energy poverty in 2008 when he was Minister of Energy. That resulted in the OEB commencing a process to “examine issues associated with low income energy consumers”.

Dwight Duncan’s successor, George Smitherman put the concept on hold via his September 8, 2009 directive to the OEB ordering the “new support programs for low-income energy consumers not be put in place in advance of a ministerial direction.” Such was the power of a Minister of the McGuinty cabinet. (Smitherman now reputedly lives in Forest Hill so presumably isn’t likely to need a LEAP grant).

Fast forward to July 5, 2010 and Brad Duguid, Minister of Energy, instructed the OEB to restart the process and to have it “completed for January 2011, recognizing that 2011 may be a transition year with regards to establishing a robust and integrated natural gas and electricity low-income energy strategy.” Duguid conveyed no indication of the amount that the OEB should budget for grants, nor where the money to support the program should come from, only that they “consider increasing the funds allocated to such program beyond the level established by the OEB in its earlier consultation process in the amounts the OEB determines to be appropriate.”

Later that year the Duguid/Duncan (Minister of Finance) duo brought us the Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP) and the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit (OCEB). The LTEP forecast was not pretty for anyone living near or at the poverty level as it said electricity rates alone (the LTEP ignored the impact on delivery costs) would rise 7.9% a year for the next five years. Interestingly enough both the LTEP and the OCEB occurred within days so one must wonder if it was an orchestration by Premier McGuinty. Independent energy consultant Tom Adams found many related co-incidental events in his review of how things played out at that time.

The use of the annual incomes (as per the 2012 ‘sunshine list’) of Hydro One, Toronto Hydro and the OEB’s top five income earners hopefully has not escaped the reader as the following will bring some context to the approximately $3.5 million granted under the LEAP program by all of the local distribution companies (75 in total) to those Ontarians living in energy poverty who were aware of the program.

  • Hydro One’s top five salaried personnel earned 186% more then the total grants to the 2628 people under the LEAP program who received approximately $1.5 million in total from Hydro One using their full allocation of LEAP funds.
  • The amount disbursed by Hydro One under the program was approximately ½ of 1% of the dividends ($370 million) they paid to the Province of Ontario in 2012.
  • Toronto Hydro’s top five salaried personnel received 515% more then the 1,250 customers under the LEAP program who got about $492 thousand. (The CEO alone received almost twice what Toronto Hydro paid out in grants)
  • 39% of the grantees are “single with children.”
  • The average monthly income of a grantee is $1,760 per month (presumably pre-tax) or $21,100 per year (an equivalent of about $11.25 per hour).
  • 33% of applicants were declined because the local distribution company had insufficient funds remaining from the allocated amounts that the OEB specified were available and
  • 5% had already accessed funds during the program year so were declined.
  • 74% of the applicants rented their premises and 25% lived in Community or Social Housing
  • 44 (59%) of the local distribution companies exhausted their LEAP funds.

The Liberal’s belated stop and start policy in respect to low income Ontarians seems predicated on some key elements which seem to suggest that they really didn’t consider the hardships their energy policies might cause due to their failure to complete a cost/benefit analysis. Once the evidence surfaced the policy developed was:

  1. Tell low-income Ontarians to conserve energy.
  2. Offer them a token.

Given that Ontario is already one of the most expensive places in North America for electricity— and the forecast indicates prices will rise a lot more—we should expect to see the number of applicants seeking grants increase, assuming those individuals suffering from energy poverty are aware of the LEAP program. One would expect a compassionate government to increase funding having been the cause of the problem but based on history we shouldn’t be complacent.

P.S. Ontario’s ratepayers pickup the cost of the LEAP program.

Parker Gallant is a retired bank executive and a former director of Energy Probe Research Foundation. As with all independent bloggers on this site, Parker’s views do not necessarily reflect those of Energy Probe.

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6 Responses to Parker Gallant: Ontario’s big LEAP: Low-income Energy Assistance Program

  1. Pingback: The “Who’s Who” that makes millions of $$$ on your overpriced Hydro Bill……a small group of “overpaid executives”! | The Big Green Lie

  2. On an “honourable Society” these “foul merchants of misery” would be in Jail!

  3. Pingback: Parker Gallant: Wind Turbines and solar panels bring Ontario Energy Poverty: Chapter 2 | Energy Probe

  4. Pingback: Parker Gallant Exposes Energy Poverty, in Ontario | the Original "Mothers Against Wind Turbines" TM

  5. Pingback: Energy poverty in Ontario: the benefits of a Liberal government | WCO | Wind Concerns Ontario

  6. sports says:

    I rarely comment, however i did some searching and wound
    up here Parker Gallant: Ontarios big LEAP: Low-income Energy
    Assistance Program | Energy Probe. And I actually do have some questions for you if it’s
    allright. Is it simply me or does it look like a few of these comments appear like
    they are coming from brain dead visitors? :-P And, if you are writing at other social sites, I’d like to keep up with everything fresh you have
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