Be­yond the limit

Nor'wester (Springdale) - - EDITORIAL -

Noth­ing seems as out of place in this prov­ince as a ve­hi­cle with out-of-prov­ince plates, clearly tourists, trav­el­ling at the posted speed limit while scores of cars stream past them.

You can imag­ine the dis­cus­sion in the car: “Honey, ev­ery­one’s pass­ing you. Are you sure the speed limit’s 100 km/h?”

This is not to make light of a se­ri­ous is­sue: there have been a slew of cat­a­strophic high­way ac­ci­dents in the last few weeks, many of them on 100 km/h ar­te­rial roads.

One of the big­gest prob­lems? Speed lim­its, put in place to out­line the top le­gal speed in perfect road con­di­tions, seem to be viewed as con­ser­va­tive sug­ges­tions by many of our driv­ers.

Chances are, the speed of at least one of the driv­ers in many ac­ci­dents in this prov­ince has to do with driv­ing too fast, ei­ther too fast for road con­di­tions, or just too fast in gen­eral.

Roads like the Vet­eran’s Me­mo­rial High­way, from the Trans-Canada High­way to Car­bon­ear, are clearly dan­ger­ous, not only be­cause of the ab­sence of ded­i­cated pass­ing lanes, but be­cause of the behaviour of driv­ers.

Any­one who uses the route reg­u­larly can tell you not only about ter­ri­ble ac­ci­dents they are aware of, but about the le­gion of close calls they’ve seen dur­ing reg­u­lar driv­ing. There are plenty of rea­sons: there are driv­ers trav­el­ling the route at ab­surdly high speeds in the 150 km/h range, but also driv­ers us­ing the same route as an easy com­mu­nity-to­com­mu­nity short hop, bot­tle­neck­ing the road while tootling along at 70 km/h, build­ing long line­ups and in­creas­ing frus­tra­tion be­hind them. There’s a real ig­no­rance of road con­di­tions, with driv­ers trav­el­ling at the road’s top speed limit even in ad­verse weather, and a real lack of sit­u­a­tional aware­ness about other driv­ers shar­ing the road.

The con­stant in all of those cases? One thing — bad driv­ing habits.

How dan­ger­ous is it? Well, when you con­sciously change plans and don’t travel the road be­cause of some­thing as sim­ple as rain, there’s an is­sue.

But what do you do if po­lice re­sources are stretched too thin for full and thor­ough high­way en­force­ment, and driv­ers clearly and know­ingly ex­ploit that fact?

Do we reach a point where the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment has to bring in photo-radar to start catch­ing not the av­er­age speeder, but those trav­el­ling at clearly dan­ger­ous rates of speed?

Will mas­sive fines get peo­ples’ at­ten­tion when even hor­ri­ble ac­ci­dents fail to? Do we have to go even fur­ther, so that if you’re con­victed of trav­el­ling 40 or more kilo­me­tres over the speed limit, you lose your li­cense for a pe­riod of time to let you pon­der the con­se­quences?

Public aware­ness cam­paigns, oc­ca­sional and well-pub­li­cized tick­et­ing cam­paigns and editorial tut-tut­ting don’t seem to be do­ing a sin­gle thing to make the roads safer.

We’ve tried the car­rot, and it’s failed to have an ef­fect.

What kind of stick do we need to use?

I am writ­ing to ex­press my con­cerns over NL Hy­dro’s pro­posed rate in­creases to elec­tric­ity rates soon to be heard be­fore the Public Util­i­ties Board this com­ing Oc­to­ber.

In July of this year, ap­pli­ca­tion was made for a rate in­crease that would see elec­tric rate in­crease of 13 per cent over the next two years.

While NL Hy­dro has a re­ported profit of $138 mil­lion over the fis­cal year, again we see NL Hy­dro ask­ing for an in­crease in rates to cover added fu­ture ex­penses to cover costs to their in­fra­struc­ture. What both­ers me in this ap­pli­ca­tion is the fact that NL Hy­dro did noth­ing to pre­vent faults in our elec­tri­cal sys­tem in the past as ex­pressed in both Lib­erty Con­sult­ing re­ports since the oc­cur­rence of the “DarkNL” events of our re­cent past.

When does a prod­uct or com­mod­ity be­come so highly priced that it be­comes un­af­ford­able, and how does a com­mod­ity like elec­tric­ity get priced fairly when we see such ne­glect as our elec­tri­cal sys­tem saw, the proof be­ing shown in the Lib­erty Con­sult­ing re­ports? It was the risk that NL Hy­dro took in the first place that saw them com­ing back to the PUB in the first place.

To what ex­tent do we have to pay for a “cost of do­ing busi­ness” when the crown cor­po­ra­tion al­ready shows a pos­i­tive bot­tom line in spite of the ne­glect that we now have to pay for?

In the light of in­creas­ing costs to con­sumers as a re­sult of the fail­ing Muskrat Falls project, how far can we go un­til the crown cor­po­ra­tion hits the wall known as the “law of di­min­ish­ing re­turns”?

In my house, elec­tric­ity costs are al­ready at their zenith with the com­mod­ity fast out­pac­ing the cost of liv­ing num­bers. In no way can any con­sumer jus­tify an in­crease to rates out­side of core in­fla­tion num­bers un­der nor­mal con­di­tions, but ne­glect is not cov­ered. Heads should have rolled.

What NL Hy­dro has reaped in the ne­glect of reg­u­lar sched­uled main­te­nance in the Lib­erty re­port is now com­ing home to roost for the cor­po­ra­tion as well as con­sumers. What they have sown is a huge dis­con­tent that re­quires con­sumers to sim­ply say “No!” to any pro­posed in­creases to rates. We need the Public Util­i­ties Board to side with con­sumers on this one to send the mes­sage to all that we sim­ply can’t af­ford what you are ask­ing. That comes at the detri­ment to NL Hy­dro’s bot­tom line which be­longs to the tax­pay­ers in the first place.

NL Hy­dro should with­draw its ap­pli­ca­tion for a rate in­crease and ab­sorb it as a “cost of do­ing busi­ness” in the first place.

To this end, I am ask­ing all con­sumers to write to the Public Util­i­ties Board ex­press­ing dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the pro­posed in­crease, and also a note of sup­port to Den­nis Browne who is rep­re­sent­ing con­sumers’ views in this fight.

Now, more than ever, con­sumers and busi­ness have to be heard!

Ge­orge Mur­phy

Con­sumer Group for Fair Gas Prices

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