Protests ‘keep­ing the pres­sure up’ dur­ing PUB hear­ings

Peo­ple en­cour­aged to demon­strate and con­tact their elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives

Advertiser (Grand Falls) - - Editorial - BY JUANITA MERCER juanita.mercer@thetele­gram.com

As the Pub­lic Util­i­ties Board (PUB) hears more ev­i­dence this week about a pro­posed rate hike from New­found­land and Labrador Hy­dro, some peo­ple con­cerned about the in­creases pro­posed by pro­vin­cial util­i­ties are plan­ning protests.

One of those peo­ple is Clarenville res­i­dent Keith Fil­lier.

Us­ing so­cial me­dia plat­forms, Fil­lier and others are or­ga­niz­ing protests to ex­press their con­cerns with rate in­creases. That in­cluded the #MakeNLDarkA­gain power shut-off protest last month, as well as an on­line pe­ti­tion signed by more than 12,000 peo­ple so far.

Last Fri­day, a group was plan­ning to protest rate hikes out­side the PUB of­fice at 120 Tor­bay Rd. be­tween 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Pro­test­ers dis­cussing their plans on the Free NL Face­book page men­tioned show­ing up with suit­cases to sym­bol­ize the num­ber of peo­ple leav­ing the province, or wear­ing hats and mit­tens to sym­bol­ize peo­ple who will strug­gle to keep their homes heated dur­ing the win­ter.

On Tues­day, Fil­lier kicked off a let­ter-writ­ing cam­paign ask­ing elected of­fi­cials to do more to pro­tect peo­ple against ris­ing elec­tric­ity rates.

Fil­lier emailed his MHA, Colin Hol­loway, and copied sev­eral other politi­cians, me­dia out­lets and util­i­ties.

“In my opin­ion, there isn’t enough thought put into find­ing ways to lessen the bur­den be­ing placed on ratepay­ers,” he wrote.

“We’ve been promised mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures are be­ing looked at, but all we see are util­i­ties pre­sent­ing rate in­crease ap­pli­ca­tions to the Pub­lic Util­i­ties Board.”

Fil­lier asked Hol­loway what work has been done to en­sure N.L. Hy­dro has stream­lined its op­er­at­ing bud­get “by all means pos­si­ble be­fore look­ing for rate in­creases.”

On so­cial me­dia, Fil­lier en­cour­aged others to write to their elected of­fi­cials to ex­press their con­cerns, and ex­plain the ef­fect the ex­pected in­creases over the next sev­eral years will have on their qual­ity of life.

“Sin­gle moth­ers strug­gle to pay bills that they know are im­pos­si­ble to pay,” Fil­lier wrote. “We can’t af­ford this and we can’t wait for the house to re­open to hear about your govern­ment’s plans. We need to know now. When can we meet to hear about your progress?”

Fil­lier told The Tele­gram the group of protest or­ga­niz­ers are speak­ing for peo­ple who feel they don’t have a voice.

“Peo­ple de­pended for years on their elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives to look out for them and they trust the sys­tem, and the sys­tem is fail­ing these peo­ple. How are these peo­ple go­ing to un­der­stand all of these per­cent­ages and the dif­fer­ent as­pects of the Muskrat Falls project? What peo­ple un­der­stand is what money is com­ing in and what bills they’ve got. That’s what they un­der­stand — liv­ing. And they’re hav­ing dif­fi­culty.”

In his let­ter, Fil­lier wrote that he’s ask­ing politi­cians to “do the job you were elected to do … and rep­re­sent the peo­ple that live in this province.”

At press time Wed­nes­day, Fil­lier said he re­ceived a re­sponse to his let­ter from Mount Pear­lSouth­lands MHA Paul Lane. Fil­lier said he did not re­ceive a re­sponse from any­one else.

The Tele­gram tele­phoned and emailed Hol­loway for a com­ment on the let­ter, but did not re­ceive a re­sponse by dead­line.

Mean­while, Fil­lier said he will con­tinue to par­tic­i­pate in such protests, adding that a group of peo­ple is work­ing on plan­ning an­other provincewide, co-or­di­nated protest.

“We plan on keep­ing the pres­sure up,” he said.

“We want to hold the govern­ment ac­count­able to rep­re­sent its peo­ple and come up with so­lu­tions.”

FILE PHOTO

Keith Fil­lier is one of sev­eral peo­ple in­volved in or­ga­niz­ing protests con­cern­ing util­ity rate in­creases.

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