Parsons addresses power rate concerns
MHA for Burgeo – La Poile came under fire from voters on social media
Andrew Parsons is worried about recent and future power rate increases too.
The MHA for Burgeo– La Poile says he is well aware of the concerns being expressed by residents in his riding and throughout the province.
“Electricity prices across the province is probably one of the top topics no matter where you go, which corner of the province,” said Parsons, who was in attendance at an affordable housing announcement on Tuesday, July 17. “It’s frustrating.”
Parsons isn’t the only one who is frustrated.
The day before, Jonathan Kettle tagged Parsons in a post on the Port aux Basques and Area Open Forum, requesting to hear the latter’s take on power rate increases.
“If your (sic) public safety minister what are you and the liberals going to do to look after the safety of kids and families who have no power in the winter when outrageous bills force people in a bad spot?” wrote Kettle. “The P.U.B. is allowing rate increases to be approved faster than the public can adjust.
It’s disheartening to see the lack of any response by our government and the lack of comments by our representatives on the issue.”
Kettle went on to express regret at voting Liberal in the last election based on Parsons’ character and stated he won’t be voting the same way next time. He also admitted he didn’t expect Parsons to respond.
“If forcing our constituents into bankruptcy or moving is the Liberal plan, it will be in full force soon enough,” wrote Kettle.
Kettle later clarified to The Gulf News via email that he purposely chose to post on social media rather than reach out to Parsons.
“I did not reach out to Mr. Parsons directly,” he said. “It is my opinion that this is a very public problem that will have an impact on every citizen in this province. That is why I chose to start an open discussion.”
Kettle’s initial post soon had over 100 comments, mostly from other residents worried about already high power bills possibly doubling or tripling.
Sarah Courtney, a student attending the College of the North Atlantic in Corner Brook, was one of the first posters who joined the discussion.
“As a student living on a student loan I get just enough money to pay for my schooling, pay my monthly bills (rent, phone, internet, heat) and I can afford groceries each month. It worries me to think that in the upcoming years I will be getting the same amount of money from my student loan but having to pay an excessive amount more each month towards my heat bill. In the winter my largest bill in my 2-bedroom apartment was about $130,” Courtney wrote later to The Gulf News. “That same bill is now going to be leaning more towards $300. I’m having to consider renting my 2nd bedroom as a means to cover my bills and afford to live. I feel like this is something I shouldn’t have to be worrying about, but it’s becoming a big concern for me.”
Parsons says he is always open to talking with his constituents via phone, email or in person, but prefers not to jump into social media frays. He did point out that the cost of a post-secondary education in Newfoundland is much more affordable than in other provinces, and that power rates are considerably higher in some other provinces as well.
Some commenters even wrote that they were considering relocating.
“I believe if people have the option and means to leave, they will,” maintains Kettle, who spent a lot of time discussing the issues brought forth by his original post. “I think our government should be thinking about the fact they may drive away transient workers and for lack of a better term our middle class. These are workers that front the biggest bill with income taxes. Then get hit by ridiculous gas prices and absurd power bills. If we remove the money put into Newfoundland’s economy from our middle class our province is in even bigger trouble. We are already headed towards a welfare province. If there is no one left to pay taxes, who pays for all of our social programs?”
Kettle says he’s toyed with the idea of relocating too.
“I chose to live in Newfoundland because it has always been my home. Watching the disgusting mismanagement of the province’s finances and the direction our province is headed, moving might be the only option,” admitted Kettle. “If I can buy a house in another province for the cost of a Newfoundland power bill, I would have to be a fool to stay. I hope our leaders really hear the people of the province. People are fed up. Changes in gas prices, fees for everything and electricity increases constantly is more of a burden than people can handle.”
“Every province is facing these issues,” notes Parsons. “Go out to B.C. and check out what the gas prices are out there. They’re significantly higher.”
Kettle believes people will be facing some difficult choices when the weather starts to cool in the fall, particularly seniors on a fixed income, some of who already struggle. He hopes people will donate to local food banks and shelters, predicting an increased need.
Parsons says government is working on coming up with a real solution for people. He says that solution is going to involve money and finding that money is no different than finding it for health care or education.
“It’s a real issue. People’s power rates are going to go up,” acknowledged Parsons, who doesn’t intend to see people having to decide between heat and food.
“We’re working on mitigation,” promises Parsons. “We’ve taken tangible steps within the last couple of weeks that people will see soon when it comes to working on heating systems, and when it comes to working on finding ways to make it affordable.”
Parsons points out that when the provincial Liberal party was in opposition, they filibustered for five days against Muskrat Falls. By the time the Liberals formed the government there was a $2.7 billion deficit, and the ink was already dry on the contracts.
“Back at that time there was actually a significant amount of support for Muskrat Falls,” recalls Parsons. “Now we are dealing with, as a government, the mess that was left to us by the previous administration.”
Also coming under fire on the Facebook discussion was the 2018 Sunshine List, which discloses employees who make over $100,000 per year while serving in government or public bodies or agencies, including Nalcor. Parsons says he’s well aware of the list too.
“As somebody who watches this and works my butt off, I find it very difficult when I see some of the bonuses that these individuals are getting,” said Parsons.
“Rate hikes should be justified. And by justification I do not mean increasing profit margins. That is what is happening right now. I would like to see our honourable members actually fight for its constituents and hold the public utilities board accountable. Being a career politician and towing the party line should not be more of a concern than looking out for this beautiful island we call home,” believes Kettle. “Announcing new projects and spending money is great. Just don’t forget who pays the bill.”
“I don’t want to see, and I don’t plan on seeing it doubling,” says Parsons, who notes this is not a willing choice by government. “We’ve all got family and friends here that cannot afford it. We can’t allow that to happen, so what we’re trying, and this is a daily challenge, is to find a way to deal with that issue.”
Jonathan Kettle is a frustrated voter who prompted a lengthy social media discussion about Newfoundland power rates on Monday, July 16.
Burgeo– La Poile MHA Andrew Parsons in Port aux Basques on Tuesday, July 17.