Win­ter heat­ing de­serves at­ten­tion this elec­tion

The Compass - - EDITORIAL -

So­cial ser­vices clients in New­found­land are lit­er­ally left out in the cold. I be­lieve they are the only prov­ince in Canada that does not pay the full heat and light bills for their client.

They re­ceive $50 as a fuel al­lowance per month for that pur­pose and have not re­ceived an in­crease since the 2013 bud­get.

This is ex­tremely frus­trat­ing since NL Power sought rate in­creases of 7.2 per cent on April 17, 2013, but the rates in­creased by 5 per cent on July 1, 2013, 2 per cent on July 1, 2014, and a pro­posed 3.6 per cent to take ef­fect on July 1, 2016.

The gov­ern­ment ended its Res­i­den­tial En­ergy Re­bate, which was the equiv­a­lent of the 8 per cent HST charges monthly on July 1, 2015. So if you had a ba­sic bill of $100 three years ago, by July 1, 2016 the Ad­vanced Ed­u­ca­tion and Skills client is pay­ing $19.83 more per month! That’s a to­tal in­crease of 19.83 per cent in three years!

How is any­one ex­pected to only have a bill of $50 a month (plus the $250 re­bate a year) work out to $70.83 per month? You can’t even run ba­sic lights and a hot wa­ter boiler on this amount.

I re­al­ize that each prov­ince has vari­ances in their so­cial ser­vices pro­grams to al­low for specifics for each prov­ince, but this is Canada, and if one prov­ince needs heat in win­ter, they all do.

This dif­fer­ence is in­hu­mane in com­par­i­son. If other prov­inces can pay for full heat with no penalty or claw back to the client, why not New­found­land?

There are many who have no choice but to avail them­selves of the ser­vices pro­vided by so­cial ser­vices due to dis­abil­i­ties and ill­ness. Th­ese peo­ple are es­pe­cially vul­ner­a­ble to not hav­ing heat in their homes, not to men­tion the stress of try­ing to find the money to pay that bill each month.

No heat means mold, damp­ness, and ill­nesses such as bron­chi­tis, pneu­mo­nia, arthri­tis, vi­ta­min de­fi­cien­cies, weak­ened im­mune sys­tems and more! With this comes in­creased health care costs, missed school, and in­creased drug costs, adding much much more to the prov­inces in­curred costs than if they re­ceived the ini­tial proper heat in the first place!

This is 2015 — surely we can do bet­ter and treat all Cana­di­ans with some fair­ness from one end of Canada to the other. We can­not have be­come so hard­ened as to ig­nore eas­ily reme­died so­cial sit­u­a­tions such as those above.

Ba­bies and chil­dren should not be forced to live in cold houses just be­cause their par­ent or par­ents find them­selves in cir­cum­stances that re­quire them to turn to so­cial serv- ices.

For those that be­lieve that the only ones that are on so­cial ser­vices are drunks and drug­gies who spend the money on cig­a­rettes or gambling, that is, in 99 per cent of cases, mis­in­for­ma­tion on the part of a so­ci­ety fed on stereo­typ­ing myths.

First of all if there is abuse of the sys­tem, that’s the sys­tem’s fault (largely in part gov­ern­men­tal de­part­ments’ fail­ure to pro­vide ad­e­quate funds so peo­ple won’t have to re­sort to ‘cheat­ing’ to make ends meet), not the fault of the in­di­vid­ual.

Se­condly, if they choose to waste it that way, that re­ally is their choice. So­ci­ety has no more right telling them how to spend that money than I do telling you how to spend your cheque, es­pe­cially when they are liv­ing on far less per month than should be al­lowed.

Could you, hon­estly, live on $1,000 per month to pay all your bills and still eat healthy? I think not!

In this elec­tion year I call on all three po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, in­cum­bents, those in po­si­tions of author­ity and pri­vate cit­i­zens, to make gov­ern­ment funded and fully ab­sorbed win­ter heat­ing an elec­tion pri­or­ity, with no claw back or loss of client monies, much the same as it is in other prov­inces! No house­hold should have to choose be­tween sup­per on the ta­ble and heat for the home.

Ba­bies and chil­dren should not be forced to live in cold houses just be­cause their par­ent or par­ents find them­selves in cir­cum­stances that re­quire them to turn to so­cial ser­vices.

Wanda White writes from Broad Cove. She rep­re­sents Per­sons for Wel­fare Rights in New­found­land.

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