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Protests outside of the Public Utilities Board on Torbay Road in St. John’s have become a weekly occurrence, but with new faces at every event.
Protests outside of the Public Utilities Board on Torbay Road in St. John’s have become a weekly occurrence, but with new faces at every event. - Ashley Fitzpatrick

Progressive Conservative leader Ches Crosbie drops by line

Justin Bagg (left) talks with N.L. PC Leader Ches Crosbie as a protest against rising power rates is about to get underway at the PUB Friday.
Justin Bagg (left) talks with N.L. PC Leader Ches Crosbie as a protest against rising power rates is about to get underway at the PUB Friday.

A handful of people gathered Friday outside of the Public Utilities Board (PUB) office in St. John’s, to continue what have become once-weekly protests against forecasted power rate hikes.

Individuals said they were representing their own concerns, but also concern for friends and family members — a granddaughter, a 95-year-old mother, people in the community they know to be poorly positioned to manage power rates increases to even 17 cents or 18 cents per kilowatt hour.

All of the participants said they’re worried about what lies ahead, and called on the provincial government to speak about the rate mitigation plans.   

Justin Bagg of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s has just installed a heat pump at home.

“Anybody can handle one or two per cent increase on anything, I would think, but no one can afford double (power) rates,” he said, referring to the 23 cents per kilowatt hour possible without the province stepping in.

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Bagg said he was out of town for the earlier PUB protests, so this was his first opportunity to take part.

The Telegram mentioned Premier Dwight Ball’s public statements in response to concerns being voiced on power rates, where the premier has said he will not allow rates to double. 

“Well, we need to see that in writing,” Bagg said, referring to the premier campaigning on a HST increase as a “job killer” in 2015, then overseeing an increase.

While The Telegram was at the protest, through to just before noon, MHA Paul Lane was on hand, carrying a painted wood sign he admits he did not make, but one he did fully endorse. It stated: “People of Mount Pearl-Southlands pay enough.”

And Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie had dropped by as the protest got underway, to speak with participants. He told The Telegram he’d like to see the government sharing more, including how they’re determining the average power rates in Atlantic Canada, as a means of determining a target for rate mitigation.

Crosbie cited a recent Uncle Gnarley blog post, but also work by party researchers, saying rates elsewhere in Atlantic Canada are not going to 16 cents per kilowatt hour in the near future.

“I’m a believer in facing the facts and the truth. So it’s important to know what your target rate really is,” Crosbie said, before re-stating a call for a special reference from government for the PUB on incorporating Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project costs into local rates.

For his part, Bagg said he’s traditionally considered himself more conservative, but he’s not too interested in party lines on this subject. 

“I just want to see the right thing done,” he said. “I don’t care who does it.”

ashley.fitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

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