Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday February 24, 2017
Behind on your hydro bill? Don’t fear being disconnected in the winter
Electricity consumers behind on their bills need no longer fear being disconnected in the winter now that the Ontario government has banned utilities from pulling the plug on them.
“I’m hoping to have all of this done by the end of this week,” Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault told reporters after all three parties supported the passage of the Protecting Vulnerable Energy Consumers Act.
The bill got royal assent later in the day and gives the Ontario Energy Board power to order utilities to stop disconnections during cold weather months through changes to their licences, which could take until Monday.
Most utilities had already agreed to voluntarily end winter disconnects, but Thibeault said some could not do so in time for a midnight Tuesday deadline, prompting the new law.
Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said he was pleased the legislation passed, but added the government should have put the ban in place before winter.
“Unfortunately, this comes after far too many families and seniors were forced to suffer in the cold without power because the Wynne Liberals dragged their feet and played political games.”
Both the Conservatives and NDP said the government erred by putting the winter disconnection ban into a larger piece of omnibus legislation, the Burden Reduction Act, introduced last June.
The PCs supported it, but the New Democrats did not, citing objections to provisions on the sale of Ontario Place and weaker workplace protections in it.
That it took until late February to pass a winter disconnection bill shows the Liberals are “out of touch,” Brown charged.
The energy board does not have statistics on how many customers were disconnected from hydro for non-payment so far this winter.
Under the new legislation, which does not contain dates, the energy board will work with local utilities on a definition of winter, which technically ends Mar. 21, the first day of spring, Thibeault noted.
The bill does not contain any deadlines for reconnecting customers who were cut off. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she hopes utilities will abide by “the spirit” of the legislation. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)