Hydro Rates Punish the Poor

A letter I wrote to the Cowichan Citizen sparked an article on BC Hydro rates www.cowichanvalleycitizen.com/news/362865931 and

From the Tyee, find the article at: http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2013/07/09/BC-Hydro-Rate-Hikes/
From the Tyee, find the article at: http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2013/07/09/BC-Hydro-Rate-Hikes/

their effects on the poor. It was a great article, but necessarily left some of the letter out. Here it is, as originally written:

Dear Editor

I am writing to draw your attention to the increasing numbers of people being made powerless by BC Hydro, and, therefore, all of us. I work at Duncan United Church where many people are sent by our provincial government to seek relief from the circumstances thrust upon them by our provincial government.

People come to our church daily seeking food, clothing, shelter and help with their rent and utility bills. The rates of pay, pension and social assistance that we think are acceptable are the direct cause of their plight, but the indirect suffering caused by a steady increase in fees for almost every kind of public service has exacerbated the situation. The most onerous of these has to be the increase in BC Hydro Rates and the punitive collection practices employed by BC Hydro. Over half of our requests for financial assistance come from folk who are under a disconnect notice from BC Hydro.

Imagine being a single parent, struggling on minimum wage, faced with an unexpectedly high hydro bill because Hydro seems unable to get the equal payment calculation right. If your power is cut off you can no longer heat your home, or refrigerate your food. Cooking is problematic too. You might be forgiven for worrying about interactions with social services, as your children no longer have access to any of the services electricity makes possible. Imagine you’ve communicated that to BC Hydro and imagine they cut you off anyway, next demanding a hefty deposit (sometimes twice the bill) and a hefty connection fee (sometimes as much as the bill) before they’ll grant you access to power again.

Imagine going to welfare for help and being told you are not having a crisis, you’re having a planning problem and to go out and beg for help from churches, because your lack of planning is not the government’s problem. Maybe you should have spent more time at the foodbank, and less in the grocery store…

This is happening in Duncan right now. To single parent families, pensioners, low wage earners and many others. It happens in the city, it happens on reserve, it happens because we have decided it should happen. Some while ago we decided we would no longer treat Hydro as an essential service. We decided it should be a money earner instead. Sometime ago we decided the company we owned and the government we operate should treat men, women and children, parents and grandparents without care or compassion or decency.

Not that long ago we decided to raise hydro rates in the name of defeating climate change. When we did that we promised we would make sure the most vulnerable among us would be taken care of. We promised we would transfer funds to their account. It is about time we did. If each one of us took the time to tell the government and our MLA we want change, I know they would provide it. I know the official opposition would see this as a headline issue and would not let up until the government did.

Sincerely yours,

Keith Simmonds

Minister, Duncan United Church

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About Keith Simmonds

Born and raised in the middle north (Kitimat BC and Flin Flon MB), I've worked 30 years in Mining/Smelting and the Pulp industry, while engaging in political action, community organizing, and union activism on the side. In and Out of Spiritual Being, my faith journey is through a Christian context, although I honour, uphold and am fascinated by other paths to the mountain. I began my training in diaconal ministry with the United Church of Canada in 2004, and began serving as a minister in Rossland, Trail, Beaver Valley and Salmo BC in 2009. My family and I moved to Duncan BC in August of 2013, where I serve as part of the ministry team. My partner, Laurel Walton, and I have five children between us. Liam attends Cow High, Jonah lives and works in Duncan, Brenna resides in Courtenay, Amy and her partner, Craig are in Vancouver, and Wade is in Calgary. My parents and siblings live in Kamloops, BC.

3 thoughts on “Hydro Rates Punish the Poor

  1. Right on Keith. So worth sharing this to a much wider readership. Sending a copy of this to our MLA’s and leader of the opposition.

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