An­i­mals get bet­ter treat­ment

The Compass - - Editorial - Pat Cullen So­cial Af­fairs Pat Cullen is a jour­nal­ist who lives in Carbonear. She can be reached at 596-1505 or

On July 1, res­i­den­tial elec­tric­ity rates in­creased by roughly 8.1 per cent, in part to ac­com­mo­date a pro­jected in­crease in the price of oil at Holy­rood.

We are de­pend­ing on that oil for heat and light. For the lucky it will mean a mere gri­mace or even a shrug when they look at those ex­tra dol­lars.

For oth­ers who have never en­joyed their luck, it will mean a fur­ther de­scent into the hell of hunger, pain and bone-chill­ing cold.

Wanda White of Broad Cove is among the lat­ter. Sick and dis­abled, she has dif­fi­culty speak­ing (so much so that our in­ter­view was con­ducted by in­ter­net). She is un­able to stand with­out sup­port and needs a wheel­chair to get around. Her os­teo­poro­sis is so bad that even turn­ing in her bed can cause a bone to break. She has weak lungs and a com­mon cold can quickly turn to pneu­mo­nia.

She and her dis­abled hus­band Gene live in their own home and re­ceive in­come sup­port. They are on an equal pay­ment plan with New­found­land Power.

Wanda writes they have given the de­part­ment of Ad­vanced Ed­u­ca­tion, Skills and Labour per­mis­sion to take $75 from their bi-weekly cheque as pay­ment to­ward heat and light. Af­ter­wards they have roughly $370 on which to live, buy some med­i­ca­tions, pay taxis for doc­tors’ ap­point­ments and take care of the re­main­ing bills.

That $150-a-month-pay­ment means the Whites can turn on the heat in their house for just two hours a day in one room only, the kitchen — even dur­ing the cold­est days of win­ter. They sleep in an un­heated room on the most frigid of nights. And the cold, the ter­ri­ble cold, is mak­ing Wanda sicker.

“Cold makes my con­di­tion worse, as does damp air,” she writes.

But there is lit­tle they can do and they know it. For they also need food, and so they must be sat­is­fied with that in­suf­fi­cient two hours of warmth each day.

Wanda White on her dilemma and that of oth­ers like her: “What choice do we have, do oth­ers have? If we did turn on the heat, we would have to pay up to $400 a month or more and then how do we eat?”

In win­ter the Whites dress in lay­ers to keep rea­son­ably warm. Wanda wears a hat and gloves in the house.

New­found­land Power ver­i­fied in an email that for ev­ery $100 a res­i­den­tial con­sumer owes, an ad­di­tional $8.10 is now added to it. That in­crease has Wanda wor­ried. “We barely make it as it is,” she writes.

“An in­crease will see us do­ing with­out some­thing else needed for sur­vival, es­pe­cially at 8.1 per cent. That’s an­other $8.10 off ev­ery $100 and while it may not seem like much to any­one else that $8.00 can buy 4 packs of mac and cheese or 2 dozen eggs or 2 litres of milk and a jar of peanut but­ter.”

In the same email the power com­pany con­firmed rates to busi­nesses can climb as high as an ad­di­tional $11.90 on ev­ery $100, de­pend­ing on the amount of elec­tric­ity used. It would be naïve to think some of th­ese costs will not be passed on to the con­sumer, driv­ing up the price of gro­ceries and cloth­ing, mak­ing life more dif­fi­cult for the Whites and oth­ers like them.

A provin­cial gov­ern­ment state­ment sent to me de­scribed two new pro­grams de­signed to make homes more en­ergy-ef­fi­cient. One fo­cuses on in­su­la­tion and air-seal­ing, while the other deals with in­su­la­tion and heat­pumps.

The Whites al­ready live in an in­su­lated home. It is this, along with the clothes they pile on, that prob­a­bly en­sures their sur­vival in win­ter. The pro­gram in­volv­ing the in­stal­la­tion of heat-pumps forces the ap­pli­cant to bor­row. It is un­likely this cou­ple, sub­sist­ing on in­come-sup­port ben­e­fits, is in any po­si­tion to do so.

Theirs is a ter­ri­ble predica­ment and as Wanda in­di­cated there is no rea­son to think it is anoma­lous. We have too many peo­ple in this prov­ince who must choose be­tween heat and food and it is sick­en­ing that such con­di­tions are met with in­dif­fer­ence and dis­be­lief.

We’re will­ing to throw bil­lions of dol­lars at a hy­dro­elec­tric project that is noth­ing but an al­ba­tross around our necks. And we ac­cept hav­ing our tax dol­lars drained away by the mas­sive salaries paid to some gov­ern­ment work­ers when it is ques­tion­able if a por­tion are worth it. Yet we think lit­tle, if noth­ing, of the prob­lems faced by peo­ple like Gene and Wanda White.

A warm home and free­dom from hunger should be the right of ev­ery man, woman and child in New­found­land and Labrador. A salary that pays for va­ca­tions to ex­otic lo­cales and the musthave over-priced home with all the lat­est gad­getry is not.

The gov­ern­ment would right­fully pros­e­cute any­one who left an an­i­mal hun­gry or shiv­er­ing in the cold. Yet it sees noth­ing wrong with leav­ing its res­i­dents in the same con­di­tions. It is doubt­ful their hu­man­ity is rec­og­nized, much less con­sid­ered.

It is un­for­tu­nate our pri­or­i­ties are so skewed. We could make life so much bet­ter for our sick and dis­abled if we would just stop wast­ing money on some of our politi­cians and bu­reau­crats, the worth­less kind. For by wast­ing it on them, we’re also wast­ing it on the equally worth­less ideas they bring with them.

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