Ad campaign launched to force Hydro-Quebec to pay back $1.7 billion it 'overcharged'

The Quebec branch of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation isn't giving up its fight to get the Legault government to reimburse Quebecers hundreds of millions of dollars in so-called Hydro-Quebec "overpayments."

It's launched a new ad campaign that will run in next week's edition of community newspaper Hebdo Rive-Nord, which is distributed in Premier François Legault's riding of l'Assomption as well as neighbouring CAQ ridings.

Spokesman Renaud Brossard said if Legault won't listen to the federation, then maybe he'll listen to constituents.

The full page ad features a smiling Legault with a Hydro pylon in the background, reminding the premier that when he was in the official opposition, he said the Hydro "overcharges" belonged to citizens and called on his Liberal Party predecessor to give it back to them.

Last year, the auditor general said Hydro-Quebec "overpayments" reached a total of  $1.7B between 2005 and 2017.

The ad also calls on the Legault government to change the law so that whatever extra earnings Hydro makes in the future as a result of budget underestimations go back to Quebecers.

The federation's online petition has garnered 56,000 signatures so far, demanding that if Hydro-Quebec earns more than expected, then that money should be returned to Quebec taxpayers.

"I think Quebecers at large realize that this money is owed to them, this has been unfairly taken by the government and they want to see that money being paid back," said Brossard in an interview with CJAD 800.

Brossard added that yesterday's announcement that Hydro was raising its rates again is just salt in the wound.

"It's simply indecent and it's not something we can condone," said Brossard.

Hydro has said in the past that Quebecers have not overpaid and they are not being overbilled. It explains that the amounts are the result of "earnings variances" - if Hydro-Québec performs better than expected, the amounts are returned to Quebecers through the dividends paid to the government and is reflected in improved service to its clientele.