Ken Hooker says if the province wants to help homeowners with their heating bills, they should do something which would reduce costs for everyone not just give a big company a grant.
Union Gas is working with the provincial government in the hopes of gaining a grant to extend gas lines to rural areas. Currently, it is too expensive for the company to put the infrastructure into the ground but officials say it would help homeowners facing growing bills for electricity and propane.
Hooker, who is the district manager at propane distributor Dowler Karn, says handing Union Gas a big grant is not going to solve the problem. “Union Gas was running at maximum capacity this winter when it was really cold as well, how are they going to extend the pipelines and supply all the gas?” he asks.
While he concedes propane costs doubled this year during the “perfect storm” of reduced supply and extremely cold weather, Hooker says “natural gas is looking at the same problem; that’s why Union Gas is looking for a 40 percent increase and Enbridge is looking for a 25 percent increase (from the Ontario Energy Board).”
Hooker says giving an outright grant to a private company doesn’t make sense. “I don’t see how the government can give one energy supplier a grant to support their business and not give it to another whether it’s a propane company or another company.
“If they want to buy me a bunch of trucks and a bunch of tanks, then certainly I can sell my propane cheaper but this is a private business and I don’t expect them to do that and I don’t expect Union Gas to get that either.”
Hooker suggest the province should look at taking the HST off all energy bills; gas, propane and electricity. “If you are going to help the taxpayer than help them all,” he says.
But he doesn’t expect that will happen since the HST is a big source of revenue for the province.
So for his part, Hooker says the company hopes to buy a large amount of propane on contract over the summer while prices are lower and pay a premium to store it until winter to save his customers money. “We do pay a premium for storage, but it’s still better than going through this.”