Disconnections ‘a se­ri­ous is­sue’

En­ergy min­is­ter asks hy­dro dis­trib­u­tors to stop cut­ting off power dur­ing win­ter months

The Peterborough Examiner - - NATIONAL NEWS - ALLISON JONES

TORONTO — En­ergy Min­is­ter Glenn Thibeault is ask­ing all On­tario elec­tric­ity dis­tri­bu­tion com­pa­nies to stop dis­con­nect­ing cus­tomers’ power dur­ing the win­ter months.

“At no point, un­der any cir­cum­stances, should a cus­tomer be put at risk over their elec­tric­ity bill,” he wrote in a let­ter sent Thurs­day to the com­pa­nies.

It’s es­pe­cially press­ing for peo­ple in ru­ral and north­ern com­mu­ni­ties who are on a pump sys­tem rather than mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter, Thibeault said.

“So when their power goes off, so does their wa­ter pump, so that be­comes a se­ri­ous is­sue,” he said.

About 60,000 disconnections oc­cur in On­tario each year, though the On­tario En­ergy Board doesn’t have sea­sonal data. The gov­ern­ment notes that most cus­tomers are re-con­nected within 48 hours.

Hy­dro One has al­ready stopped the win­ter dis­con­nec­tion prac­tice and has said it would re-con­nect 1,400 cus­tomers whose elec­tric­ity was cut off for not pay­ing their bills.

The op­po­si­tion par­ties have been call­ing for the gov­ern­ment to break out part of an om­nibus bill that deals with elec­tric­ity disconnections and pass it as a sep­a­rate piece of leg­is­la­tion, but the Lib­er­als say that would take longer.

In­stead, Thibeault has writ­ten to the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives and the NDP to ask them to help the Lib­er­als pass the om­nibus bill quickly.

“Un­til that hap­pens I re­al­ized you know what, maybe I don’t put my faith in the op­po­si­tion in get­ting this passed quickly, but ask the (lo­cal dis­tri­bu­tion com­pa­nies) to fol­low Hy­dro One’s lead and many other LDCs’ lead and vol­un­tar­ily adopt the pol­icy of what’s com­ing in Bill 27 to en­sure that we don’t see the win­ter dis­con­nects,” Thibeault said in an in­ter­view.

The bill would give the OEB ex­panded over­sight over disconnections, but the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives also say the min­is­ter has the power to is­sue a di­rec­tive to the OEB to im­me­di­ately halt the prac­tice.

“One is one too many in the dead of win­ter, and that’s what (Premier) Kath­leen Wynne and Glenn Thibeault are al­low­ing to hap­pen by not pro­ceed­ing with direct­ing the OEB to put a mora­to­rium on any cut­offs dur­ing the win­ter months,” said Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive John Yakabuski.

Thibeault said that’s in­cor­rect and he does not have the power to is­sue such a di­rec­tive.

NDP Leader An­drea Hor­wath said Thibeault’s let­ter to dis­tri­bu­tion com­pa­nies “changes noth­ing.”

“It falls far short of the ac­tion On­tar­i­ans ex­pect and de­serve,” she said in a state­ment. “Both the premier and the min­is­ter need to stop play­ing po­lit­i­cal games with peo­ple’s lives.”

DAVE ABEL/TORONTO SUN FILES

En­ergy Min­is­ter Glenn Thibeault says win­ter hy­dro disconnections can put peo­ple at risk.

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