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Rate stabilization fund saved… for now

The Yukon government has handed the electrical rate-stabilization fund a stay of execution.For the next three months, that is.

The Yukon government has handed the electrical rate-stabilization fund a stay of execution.

For the next three months, that is.

This week, New Democrat MLA Steve Cardiff challenged Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Archie Lang’s silence on the impending cancellation of the rate-stabilization fund.

Prior to Wednesday’s 11th-hour announcement by the Yukon Party government, the fund was to expire at the end of March.

“Consumers may be taking a significant hit in their wallets next month, but we have no way of knowing because the minister responsible has been completely mum,” said Cardiff in a release Tuesday. “That’s not just bad policy, it’s bad manners.”

After Wednesday’s announcement, the rate-stabilization fund will now expire at the end of June.

The $3.5-million fund was created in 1998 to protect Yukon electrical consumers from sudden and substantial price shocks after the Faro mine — the largest electrical customer in the territory at the time — suddenly closed.

In April 2005, the Yukon Party government extended the fund for two years, until March 2007.

“Over the two-year period, the department of Energy, Mines and Resources and the Yukon Development Corp. will undertake a review of the RSF program,” Lang said in a release issued on April 1, 2005.

“They will make long-term recommendations about the future of this program prior to its expiration on March 31, 2007,” he said.

But there has been no public release of that review since Lang made the pledge.

The 2005 government release noted that without the rate-stabilization fund extension, residential electricity consumers could face up to a 33-per-cent increase.

Municipal and commercial bills could go up by 11 per cent, it said.

Despite not living up to his earlier promise and despite extending the fund, Lang refused to be interviewed on Wednesday.

Contacted around 9:30 a.m., a cabinet spokesman noted Lang had left for the day.

“During this three-month period, the government of Yukon will introduce a number of other initiatives which address energy efficiency and infrastructure development,” said Lang in a release issued Wednesday morning.

“This period will also allow the Yukon Energy Corporation to incorporate these new infrastructure and development initiatives into their upcoming plans.”

No comment was made about the still unreleased review of the rate-stabilization fund or how much the interim extension will cost.