Rollout of Alberta rebate programs a little fuzzy on details as prices remain high

Months after the province promised relief from skyrocketing utility bills, details about the two rebates remain up in the air.

The government insists it's a matter of time before money makes its way into consumers' pockets, but as they wait for the wheels of government to turn, prices aren't going down.

Albertans have been promised help, but the province is a bit fuzzy about a delivery date.

"There is no need to be waiting," said NDP leader Rachel Notley Thursday. "Albertans are overwhelmed by these costs now."

Two rebates are on the way. The first, for natural gas, kicks in if rates go over $6.50 a gigajoule, but only after Oct.1.

Right now, natural gas costs more than eight dollars a gigajoule.

"80 per cent of natural gas usage happens between October and March 31," said Dale Nally, Alberta's associate minister of natural gas and utilities, "so it's important we save our gunpowder for when it's needed."

Some believe that rebate should be fast-tracked, or paid retroactively when it finally arrives.

As of now, that's not in the cards.

"They need to reconsider the way the program is designed," said Notley.

The second rebate is for electricity. Albertans were expecting a $150 return this summer, but new details suggest consumers could now be waiting until December for the full payment.

The premier said it's a tricky rollout.

"If the economy is strong, and our fiscal situation continues to improve, we are open to providing additional consumer relief," Jason Kenney said.

A third initiative to put a few more bucks in Albertans' pockets is off to a bumpy start as well.

That's because back in April, Premier Kenney announced a pause to the provincial gas tax, which immediately dropped the price of a litre of gas by 13 cents.

By Monday, however, the price of a litre has crept back up to 1.64, which is only three cents lower than it was when the savings kicked in.

So despite the effort from the province to provide drivers with a little relief from high prices, a booming global energy market is putting Albertans almost right back where they started.