Province ends winter hydro cut-offs

Number of incidents climb in proportion to runaway cost of electricity, though cases aren’t common in the townships

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Although not a large problem in Woolwich and Wellesley townships, the province has passed legislation preventing electricity providers from turning off services in the winter.

Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault’s bill, which passed Wednesday, stops hydro companies such as Waterloo North Hydro (WNH) from cutting off power to users who have unpaid bills.

The measure was initially attached to a sweeping bill called the Burden Reduction Act last summer. The NDP was against other aspects of the bill, and along with the PC party, pushed for a separate piece of legislation devoted to winter hydro cut-offs.

Here, however, there are very few cases of power being shut off in the company’s service area, said WNH spokesman Jeff Quint.

“Two weeks ago, we had two and now we have none. Our residential customer base is, give or take, 47,000 and change,” he said. “We are talking two out of 47,000, so for us it is not an issue. I can’t speak for our neighbouring utilities but I don’t think it is an overwhelming issue in this region.”

There are other avenues customers can take if for some reason, they can’t pay their bills. There are programs such as the Waterloo Region Energy Assistance Plan (WREAP) and the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP).

“They are our customers. At the end of the day, we work with them and do the best we can and as much as we can. The last thing we are going to do is disconnect a customer. Someone isn’t sitting around like Mr. Burns grinding their hands, thinking who we are going to disconnect today,” said Quint in reference to The Simpsons’ rapacious utility owner Montgomery Burns.

Michael Harris, the Conservative MPP for Kitchener-Conestoga, says although the issue isn’t prevalent in his constituency, it is still important to ensure every Ontarian has power in the coldest months of the year.

“All the parties have been talking about winter disconnects. They are real, the stories we hear of families choosing food or heat, especially in the dead of winter,” said Harris. “I think this government has failed to really acknowledge the hydro situation, and how detrimental it has been, especially in rural Ontario. Their only source of heating their homes in the winter in typically hydroelectric.”