An act meant to help keep the cost of Manitoba’s utilities (which include auto insurance, home electricity, hydro, and heating) low was quietly scrapped in the province’s latest budget report.
The act, called the Affordable Utility Rate Accountability Act, required the provincial government to help prepare an independent annual report that revealed the combined cost of home electricity, home heating and car insurance in each province. If Manitoba’s total tab was higher than that of any other province, the finance minister – under the act – was required to devise a plan that would make the province’s bundle the most affordable.
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The act was repealed by a single sentence contained between hundreds of pages of budget documents last April 11. The sentence also said that no report will be prepared in 2017-18.
Experts are concerned that the decision to scrap the act will take away government oversight on utility rates.
“That’s where I think Manitobans should be concerned,” Josh Brandon, of advocacy group Make Poverty History, told CBC. “If the finance minister no longer wants to have that obligation and to keep hydro rates affordable and to keep public insurance rates affordable, a lot of Manitobans are going to feel that, and it is not going to mean more money on the kitchen table for them.”
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Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister was reportedly not fond of the act, calling it an “optic” and a “billboard” for the government to needlessly show off.
“It’s designed to promote the government of the day. I’m not interested in the legislation so much as the quality of the services and the prices Manitobans pay for those services,” the premier said last October.
Manitoba Public Insurance recently requested and was approved for a 3.7% overall general rate increase for 2017-18 in December.
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