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Wynne government proposes changes to existing energy programs

In what the Liberal government is calling a move to make Ontario more competitive for industry and manufacturing, Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli announced proposed changes to two existing programs.

The changes hinge on the Liberal budget being approved May 1.

"Some of the U.S. jurisdictions are creating some significant enhancements to try to poach Ontario businesses, so, we're in the business of being competitive," Chiarelli said, explaining the rationale for the proposed expansions.

He said they want to make it more appealing for businesses to launch and expand in Ontario and create more jobs.

They're also looking to incentivize businesses to conserve energy.

One program up for expansion offers large businesses incentives to shift their energy consumption to off-peak hours. The Liberals are proposing expanding that program to include all companies using more than 3 megawatts of energy as opposed to the current 5 megawatt minimum.

The second program offers incentives to businesses that expand and create jobs in Ontario.

Chiarelli also announced plans for a five-point small business energy savings plan that provides ways for small businesses to conserve more energy and learn how to take advantage of the saveONenergy plan.

But Alex Lewis, head of the Bells Corners BIA in Ottawa, says the plan won't help small businesses.

"This is not a small business problem, this is not a problem of businesses using too much Hyrdo, this is a problem of Ontario producing too much Hydro. Plain and simple, we are being taxed out the wazoo because of overproduction of energy," he said.

He said not only are consumers going to feel the pinch from their own Hydro rates increasing but also from goods and service costs increasing as small businesses try to pay for rising energy costs.

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