Monday, March 01, 2010

Electricity in Canada’s Biggest City to Skyrocket – Thanks to Road Work

As if the cost to light and power our homes in Toronto, Canada isn’t already set to increase by eight percent thanks to the Ontario government’s introduction of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) on July 1, another completely different cost may be tacked onto Torontonian’s hydro bills.

Road repairs – of all things. The City of Toronto is going to introduce a proposed fee at a meeting on March 2, calling for hydro companies to pay for the cost to repair roads and sidewalks which they have to dig up to maintain their power grids.

Cable companies, phone companies, hydro companies and other businesses which run their networks of cables and pipes under city streets have to dig into the roads and sidewalks to maintain their services. Without these constant repairs and upgrades, Canada’s largest city would be without many of the basic technological needs we’ve grown dependent on – like electricity to light our homes, telephone services to communicate vast distances, cable and Internet services to stay informed, and clean running water to sustain life.

The City of Toronto estimates almost 40,000 holes are dug every year by companies whose lifeline of cables and pipes run under city streets.

Out-going Mayor David Miller (he has said publicly he won’t be running for re-election in this year’s municipal election) claims that these cuts prematurely deteriorate our roads, and reduce the life our infrastructure, forcing the city to do costly repairs.

The proposal to be debated next week would recoup these costs, by charging companies digging up city roads about $20 CDN for every meter of road they dig up – recently paved roads would cost these companies slightly more if they were dug up.

Being labeled the “degradation fee” this new fee could bring in an estimated $4 million CDN, which the city claims would be funneled back into road repairs.

Hydro companies, cable companies, Internet Service Providers, telephone companies and others digging up Toronto roadways to maintain their underground networks would all be affected – and in turn pass this added operational cost onto their customers.

This new fee being proposed in Toronto will be directly passed onto consumers, either in the form of increased rates, or network service charges (usually charged to maintain the networks).

So if your phone line goes dead, and the phone company has to dig up the street to restore your service, you could see your monthly phone bill increase because of the costs associated with the repair.

Toronto’s city council for the past several years has squandered and over-spent to the point where property tax increases, public transit fare increases and user fees have become a City of Toronto norm.

When will politicians learn to balance their budgets, and use the funds available to them without digging deeper into the very people’s pockets that elected them into office?

Maybe when they no longer get elected into office. Probably one of a handful of reasons why the current mayor is not running in the next election – throughout his time in the Mayor’s seat he’s raised property taxes, public transit fares, and probably the most stinging to any potential re-election thoughts, inside and outside city employees walked off the job and went on strike this past summer.

Nicknamed the “garbage strike” by the media, because of the mounds of stinky garbage piling up because garbage collectors were among the many walking the picket lines, the city-wide strike this past summer pretty much ended Mayor Miller’s re-election hopes. No Toronto Mayor has ever bounced back to win re-election after a garbage strike. Though the Mayor publicly says he wants to spend more time with his family as the main reason for not running for office again, one has to seriously wonder if he’d even stand a chance.

Too bad around election time, those who vote get caught up in all the media hype and media-made issues, which rarely if ever fully hold public figures accountable for their past performance.

And it is little sneaky hidden fees – such as the proposed degradation fee – which fall off the radar during election campaigns, only to raise their ugly heads when it is too late, and the fee is law, and people suddenly complain about their hydro, phone and cable bills becoming unmanageable.

But by then, the election has long since passed, and all the politicians that put forward that little sneaky hidden fee are back in their comfy seats on council, contemplating their next little sneaky fee, while browsing through high-end catalogs to refurnish their council offices.

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