Editor’s note: The following letter was written to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board.
The Seniors Take Action Coalition (STAC) is an organization that advocates on behalf of seniors throughout the Strait-Richmond area of Nova Scotia.
As STAC members, we are writing to express our concern and disapproval regarding Nova Scotia Power’s proposed rate increase. In a province where 38 per cent of Nova Scotians are struggling to pay their current power bills, we see another rate increase as both unjust and morally reprehensible as it is totally out of touch with the economic reality of many low-income Nova Scotians. An additional rate increase will result in greater inequity and energy poverty across our entire province.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, hundreds of thousands were left without power or reliable communication capability for up to a week. In some rural areas, like River Bourgeois and Glencoe, outages were even longer! It is evident to many residents that Nova Scotia Power has no regular program of clearing trees and overhanging branches along the power lines. As a result of this neglect, not only are the number of unnecessary outages increased, with significant delays in restoration, but also risk is increased for those whose job it is to clear the lines, other emergency personnel, and residents, especially seniors.
Many stories were heard of seniors in our communities losing everything in their fridges and freezers. This alone is devastating for an individual on a fixed income. To make matters worse, Nova Scotia Power’s September utility bill came in at a significantly higher rate than normal as they were unable to read the meters and an estimated cost was billed. A higher than average power bill, coupled with the cost of replacing food, has put many in a very vulnerable financial situation.
In addition, as we look towards more frequent and devastating weather events in our area, we trust that more preventive measures (such as removal of trees at risk of falling on power lines), and instead of charging an apparently random amount when the meters could not be read, using the charges incurred in the month a year previous, as a benchmark.
We implore you to consider the overall impact a rate increase will have on the lives of the residents of this province. Electricity is a basic need and people on fixed incomes should not have to choose between heating their homes, eating a nutritious meal, or taking their required medications.
Thank you for the opportunity to be heard.
Chair, Seniors Take