OTTAWA — Calling the energy file an “absolute disaster,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford renewed his election pledge to lower hydro rates in Ontario, despite a recently announced hike by the Ontario Energy Board.

Ford promised in 2018 to cut electricity bills by 12 per cent if he became Premier.

Speaking in an exclusive interview on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s The Morning Rush with Bill Carroll Thursday, Ford said that promise is not off the table.

“Nothing gets me more frustrated than seeing hydro bills go up,” he said. “We’re still going to keep our commitment of reducing it by 12 per cent by the next election, that’s for sure.”

The next provincial election must be held on or before June 2, 2022.

Earlier this week, the OEB announced rates would increase on Nov. 1 for residential and small business customers. The rate increase would be approximately 1.8 per cent, in line with inflation, according to the OEB.

“The energy file is an absolute disaster but we’re getting a handle on it,” Ford said. “We are going to reduce rates over the next few years. Our goal is 12 per cent, but we inherited a real nightmare.”

Ford cited his elimination of cap-and-trade and cancellation of green energy contracts as steps he’s taken to help lower hydro costs. Both moves were controversial. Last week, an Ontario court ruled Ford’s government broke the law when it cancelled cap-and-trade without consulting the public, but the court also dismissed the suit by Greenpeace and did not rule that the Province had to reinstate the program.

Ford’s decision to cut 758 renewable energy contracts was also criticized. While the government said it would save ratepayers approximately $790 million, opposition critics warned the cuts would result in lost jobs and tangible environmental damage.

The look of hydro bills is also changing in November, to show the full, unsubsidized price of electricity, with a separate line showing the new Ontario Electricity Rebate, which replaces the previous government’s Fair Hydro Plan.

What this means is the per-kilowatt hour price of electricity will jump significantly on your bill, but the government will also display the taxpayer-funded rebates that are lowering the cost at the consumer level.