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February 11, 2014

Rose Simpson: Ottawa Hydro: Power to the people

Rose Simpson's column appears every Tuesday morning on the OttawaStart Blog. She also blogs at Rose's Cantina.

Photo: Lines of Power, by Alain Villeneuve

There's no place like home. Right Ontario?
You can sample fine wines, jump into hot tubs, go parasailing on Lake Ontario, eat in cool restaurants, shop in neat stores.

I can't do any of these things because I have to pay my Hydro bill which is now over $700 every billing cycle. Four years ago, when we moved into this house, it was around $300, which meant we had $400 to go towards our other bills: phone, Internet, heating.
Now we have to find that extra $400. We've done everything we could to reduce our spending. We cut right back on our discretionary spending, things like cable and Internet. We renegotiated our cell phone plans. We never go out anymore, either.
But right now, the cost of Hydro -- along with a 100 percent jump on our water and sewer bill -- has meant we're having to cut back on food.
Splurging used to mean a night on the town or a terrific holiday.
Today it means paying full price for meat at the grocery store.
The thing about it is, there is nothing we can do about our Ottawa Hydro bill. It's out of our hands.
Hydro tells us to cut back on our power use. We've done that. I don't have a dishwasher and I always do the wash after hours and on weekends. We turn out our lights.
I've been doing this for two months, and told the kids to do the same.
Did it help?
Shock of all shocks, I opened my email from Hydro to discover that our bill was $200 higher than it was when I didn't try to conserve. I am flummoxed.
I know it's not just us. My friend Doris is paying nearly $300 in Hydro for a one bedroom apartment. My neighbors are paying bills that are even higher than ours on tiny houses. I simply cannot imagine how people with low incomes find the money to pay Hydro.
An old friend, who worked for the city's welfare department, told me he spent 90 percent of his time convincing Hydro to put the power back on for poorer families.
Heartless bastards.
Pretty soon, we'll all have to subsist on beans and rice like people in other Third World countries.
This is not the Ontario I know. It is not a place where I want my grandchildren to grow.
And I certainly don't feel it's where I belong.
Let's hope Ontario's ombudsman can get to the bottom of the Hydro mess before we all have to freeze in the dark.

If you're wondering how Hydro bills got so high read this.
If you want to do something, sign this.

-- Rose Simpson
See also: Ottawa Services Guide
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