Pre-paid hy­dro plan morally re­pug­nant

The Barrie Examiner - - OPINION -

The Wynne govern­ment’s as­sur­ance that a pro­posal by pri­vately con­trolled Hy­dro One to in­stall pre-paid elec­tric­ity me­ters for peo­ple who are be­hind in their pay­ments will be vol­un­tary war­rants sus­pi­cion.

Hy­dro One’s sub­mis­sion to the On­tario En­ergy Board, seek­ing reg­u­la­tory ap­proval for its “col­lec­tion en­hance­ments” plan, buried on Page 2,038 of a 2,076-page doc­u­ment, doesn’t spec­ify it will be vol­un­tary.

It ar­gues the in­creas­ing num­ber of cus­tomers in de­fault be­cause of the ris­ing cost of elec­tric­ity jus­ti­fies in­stalling pre-paid me­ters as a way of “min­i­miz­ing Hy­dro One Net­work’s fi­nan­cial risk.”

En­ergy Min­is­ter Glenn Thibeault said Thurs­day Hy­dro One has as­sured him the pro­gram will be a vol­un­tary method for its cus­tomers to con­trol their elec­tric­ity con­sump­tion, and in any event may not be ap­proved.

This came after New Demo­crat MPP Peter Tabuns said the plan is de­signed to tar­get the poor.

It’s not sur­pris­ing Hy­dro One wants to min­i­mize non-pay­ment for its ser­vices.

But the idea se­nior cit­i­zens liv­ing on fixed in­comes could be forced into pay­ing in ad­vance for elec­tric­ity after the Lib­eral govern­ment’s mis­man­age­ment drove elec­tric­ity prices in On­tario to the high­est

The fear is that peo­ple un­able to pay their bills in ad­vance will have their power cut off.”

level in the coun­try, is both morally re­pug­nant and in­de­fen­si­ble.

The fear is that peo­ple un­able to pay their bills in ad­vance will have their power cut off — a fright­en­ing prospect as we en­ter into win­ter — de­spite Hy­dro One’s in­sis­tence that won’t hap­pen.

Its in­sis­tence is small com­fort given the util­ity’s ap­pallingly bad and in­com­pe­tent his­tory of billing cus­tomers, as iden­ti­fied by former On­tario om­bus­d­man An­dre Marin in the era be­fore Pre­mier Kath­leen Wynne sold off the prov­ince’s con­trol of Hy­dro One to the pri­vate sec­tor — a move that put the util­ity be­yond the scru­tiny of the om­buds­man.

Marin re­ported on thou­sands of com­plaints from Hy­dro One cus­tomers.

Many were over-billed and had their bank ac­counts raided to pay for elec­tric­ity they never used.

They were then re­fused re­im­burse­ment by the util­ity, which said it would only ap­ply over-billed amounts to fu­ture hy­dro bills.

For that rea­son alone, the OEB should re­ject this pro­posal.

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