The Nova Scotia NDP is calling on the province to develop a long-term plan to help families replace spoiled food after extended power outages.
Queens-Shelburne MLA Sterling Belliveau sent a letter to Premier Stephen McNeil, Energy Minister Andrew Younger, Justice Minister Lena Diab and Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie Thursday calling for an all-party committee to discuss the issue and work towards introducing new legislation in the fall.
Belliveau says people who go without power for over 24 hours need protection once the food in their refrigerators and freezers spoil. A number of residents in the Annapolis Valley are still without power following post-tropical storm Arthur.
Jodi Bishop of Lakeville says her family had to dump the contents of their fridge and freezer this week.
“We’ve had to empty the freezer and it’s taken a toll on our household income,” she said.
“I’ve called the insurance company. They may be willing to drop my deductible, but my premiums would likely go up. Right now I don’t know what to do. There is just no way we can replace what we lost following the storm.”
No compensation from NSP
Premier Stephen McNeil says the last thing Nova Scotians want is another all party committee. He says the NDP had a number of pieces of legislation they could have passed dealing with the issue, but didn’t.
In 2005, Halifax Chebucto NDP MLA Howard Epstein introduced a private members bill that would have forced Nova Scotia Power to compensate customers for food loss resulting from a power loss of 24 hours or more. The bill never made it past first reading.
McNeil calls the letter cheap politics.
“It’s not the time to be looking to score political points on what has been a difficult time for many families in this province,” he said.
The NDP MLA for Sackville Cobequid, Dave Wilson, says he’s surprised the premier would take that position.
“I think the premier should talk to some of the residents who have lost all their food. We know of one case where over $800 worth of food is now no good and they’re trying to replace that. I think the comments are wrong and he should talk to Nova Scotians who are affected by the power outage we’ve seen over the past few days in Nova Scotia.”
Some coverage for low-income families
McNeil’s own home in the Annapolis Valley was without power until Wednesday evening.
Nova Scotia Power CEO Bob Hanf told reporters this week his company does not compensate for food spoilage and suggested customers contact their insurance companies.
Minister of Energy Andrew Younger says there is assistance for those who need it most.
“Some people would have compensation available through their home insurance," he says. "People who are involved in the community services programs, there are programs available for them as well."
The Department of Agriculture suggests discarding any perishable foods that may have been above 4 C for more than two hours. A full freezer will keep food frozen for about 48 hours after it loses power, a half-full freezer for about 24 hours. An unopened refrigerator will keep cold for about four hours.