The man behind an online petition to get people motivated to speak up about their concerns over the expected doubling of power rates once Muskrat Falls becomes operational, says it will be too late to complain once the switch is hit.
James Murphy said Newfoundland and Labrador has to stop being a reactive society and get involved in seeking answers about what the provincial government plans to do to mitigate power rate increases before the hammer drops.
“We are trying to figure out a way to get people motivated again to realize what’s coming down the pipe here with the impending power rates, and with the recent 6.6 per cent Newfoundland Power rate hike that went into effect July 1,” Murphy said.
“We came up with the #MakeNLDarkAgain protests (the first was held July 1) and we will continue with that this Sunday and a continuation of those each Sunday after that.
“(With Muskrat Falls) we are steering down the barrel of double to possibly triple rates here in the next couple of years and basically (government) having a blanket statement saying they are going to throw a pot of money — between $400 million and $800 million per year — to kind of lessen the blow here, well, that is not really a solution to rob Peter to pay Paul. So, we are basically trying to get people to say to government that we need a substantial plan here, something that is not going to involve an extra tax burden.”
With the #MakeNLDarkAgain campaign, Murphy and other organizers asked people in the province to turn their power off from noon until 4 p.m. on July 1 to let decision-makers know that people are unified against the increases.
As that campaign continues, Murphy said he hopes the online petition will build momentum as well.
“We are looking for a way to get people involved, and get people to actually reach out to their government members and ask them ‘what is your plans for rate mitigation?’” he said. “Everybody is going to feel the pinch.”
The petition on change.org states in part:
“With electric rates climbing well before the multi-faceted failure Muskrat Falls becomes operational, We, the people of Newfoundland call on Premier Dwight Ball and the Liberal government for transparency. We deserve and demand to see your plan to avoid our rates doubling, tripling or worse.
“People in this province are fearful of how these rate hikes will affect the quality of life for seniors, lower-income individuals, young families and our children’s futures. Will we have to choose between heat and food or light and medication? How will people survive?
“If you expect re-election in 2019, we demand transparency and substantial progress made toward avoiding the unsustainable rate increases. Acceptance of your responsibility to the people as you sit as premier isn't one to take lightly. And we demand answers.”
One person commenting on the petition on Friday expressed concerns similar to what many others have expressed on social media, and to The Telegram in a recent series of columns by Pam Frampton called “Muskrat Falls — yes, it's personal.”
“I am deeply concerned about my family’s future in Newfoundland,” the comment read. “We love it here and don’t want to leave, but these looming rate hikes are making me think it might be our only choice.”
The petition can be found online here.