Liberal Opposition Critic for Finance and MHA for the District
of Grand Falls-Buchans, Anna Thistle, says that the challenge of
heating homes in the coming months urgently necessitates action
by government to protect electricity consumers, including the
option of introducing a rebate program.
Earlier this week,
Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro filed an application for a rate
increase with the Public Utilities Board, citing rising costs of
generating electricity. This would be the fourth such increase
since the Conservatives assumed government in 2003 and amounts
to an astounding increase in the vicinity of 25 percent during
the past three years.
"The impact on electricity consumers in this province will be
tremendous and government can no longer continue to absolve
itself of its moral duty to step in and protect those most
vulnerable to these increases, including seniors and low income
earners, " states Thistle. "Government cannot justify a double
standard, whereby they assist low income earners who heat their
home with oil and continue to ignore those who use electricity.
It is certainly not fair, nor is it acceptable."
The Liberal MHA says that while an average 4.6 per cent
increase for most island consumers is expected, those in
Labrador will be the hardest hit as an average of 8.5 per cent
increase has been requested by Hydro. "This is absolutely
atrocious as this means that Labrador residents will amongst the
highest payers of electricity in the country. Ironically, this
is likely to be approved by a government which continues to laud
itself for its commitment to Labrador.
"Government is reaping increased huge profits from offshore
oil royalties and will bank additional money from the HST
portion of these increased electricity rates. There can no
longer be any excuses why a rebate program or other options
cannot be implemented to offset the sky-high costs of heating a
home. We all know that low income owners and seniors dig into an
already stretched food budget to stay warm. This will be
particularly problematic come the colder winter months.
Government can and should be proactive on this issue if it is at
all serious about poverty reduction."