Pressure is mounting for the CAQ government to reimburse in full the overpayments to Hydro-Quebec customers, at a time when inflation is causing serious problems for many Quebec households.
A motion to this effect was tabled by the Parti Québécois so that "the National Assembly demands that the government respect its electoral commitment and reimburse in full the sum of $1.5 billion overbilled between 2005 and 2017, to Hydro-Québec subscribers". The motion was ultimately defeated.
“People are hurting now. They will not hold their breath until the election. The government is committed to this, it must honor its commitment, "said the PQ MP for Matane, Pascal Bérubé, during an interview with Le Journal.
According to the Parti Québécois, Hydro-Québec has a free hand in reimbursing Quebec households, while the Crown corporation posted record profits of more than $2 billion in the first quarter.
“Hydro-Québec is breaking records, they have the means. [...] I challenge the government to take action today, not conditional on their election, for electricity consumers, ”said Mr. Bérubé.
Far too little in 2020
To compensate Hydro-Quebec customers, the CAQ government had decided to pay subscribers $500 million in 2020. The average reimbursement was $60 per customer.
"It's not enough, all of it must be returned to Quebecers," argues Mr. Bérubé, however.
Hydro denies overcharging
Reached by Le Journal, Hydro-Québec affirms that there has never been any overbilling to its customers.
"What we've always said, there were no overpayments, customers always paid the rate that was approved by the Régie," said spokesperson Cendrix Bouchard.
However, before the adoption of Bill 34 which aligns rates with inflation, Hydro explains that there were performance discrepancies with its forecasts which allowed electricity rates to be set.
The CAQ government has also introduced a rate freeze in 2020, which will ensure that "customers will save the equivalent of approximately $1 billion by 2027," said Mr. Bouchard.
But according to Jean-Pierre Finet, of the Grouping of environmental organizations in energy, customers should rather be reimbursed now.
“Customers should receive what is rightfully theirs, and with interest. The demonstration of the $1 billion savings will have to be done by Hydro and remains, at this time, pure speculation,” he said.
When the CAQ was in opposition, leader François Legault called the overpayments of Hydro-Québec a disguised and sneaky tax.
His energy spokeswoman at the time, Chantal Soucy, even filed a 50,000-name petition demanding a refund.
The office of the Minister of Energy, Jonatan Julien, did not respond to questions from the Journal yesterday.