A Duncan minister is sounding alarms after the recent influx of people to his church seeking relief due to the seemingly ever-increasing BC Hydro rates.
Minister Keith Simmonds painted a bleak picture, this week, of a situation becoming all too frequently told to staff at Duncan United Church.
“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,” Simmonds said.
“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 food bank, and less in the grocery store?”
It’s happening, Simmonds said.
And not just to single parents but to pensioners, low wage earners and others as well.
It’s not a case isolated to our community either, he said. It’s happening in cities, on reserves, in rural areas and beyond.
“Some while ago we decided we would no longer treat Hydro as an essential service. We decided it should be a money earner instead,” he said. “Some time 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.”
Simmonds wants to see that change.
He’s calling on the community now to get in touch with MLA Bill Routley and ask that he demand change in Victoria.
“I know the official opposition would see this as a headline issue and would not let up until the government did,” Simmonds said.
Routley’s constituency assistant Doug Morgan said Routley is planning on speaking on the issue at the Legislature but scheduling prevents him from doing so until the spring.
Morgan said Routley is well aware of the problem and that it’s one of the most common issues people coming to the office have.
“We’re seeing this a lot,” Morgan said.
Increasingly, women with children are being affected. Morgan handles most of the complaints.
“Since I’ve been dealing with this over the last six years here, this is the worst I’ve seen it. The rates are going up and more and more people are being pushed off the plate towards homelessness,” Morgan said. “I’ve got people phoning and saying they’re living with a camp stove and a lantern and their freezers are done because they can’t afford to hook up again.”
Morgan said he understands the United Church has been doing everything it can to help people but “it just got swamped,” he said.
Routley wasn’t available for comment but Morgan said he will be prepared when it comes time to head back down to Victoria.
“He’s going to have a speech on BC Hydro and homelessness and that related area but we can’t get him in until spring now,” Monroe said.