'It's getting so that you can't pay it': Hamiltonians rally against hydro rates

Stelco pensioner Eleanor Deval is already worried about her pension. Now she's worried she won't be able to afford to stay in her house.
Denise Hastings, Tom Ryce and Kelly Bramer protest increasing electricity rates at a rally at Hamilton city hall on Wednesday. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Ask Eleanor Deval about her electricity bill and one word rises to the top — afraid.

It's getting so that you can't pay it.- Eleanor Deval, Stelco pensioner, of her electricity bill

The 72-year-old lives on a pension from Stelco. Her husband worked for the company for 47 years and died in 1999. Deval, who has mobility issues, worries that with Hamilton Works up for sale, that pension will disappear.

Now her last electric bill for her and her daughter was $341 for two months, and it's creeping ever upward.

"It's getting so that you can't pay it," said Deval, who tries to conserve energy. "I mean, I had to take everything out of my savings to pay this bill. That shouldn't be."

Her greatest fear? "That I'll run out of my money and have to sell my house. That's what it's coming to."

"It's getting so that you can't pay it," says Eleanor Deval, who relies on a Stelco pension. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Deval was one of about 200 people at a rally at Hamilton city hall Wednesday to protest increasing electricity rates.

Mountain resident Sarah Warry-Poljanski organized the rally, which drew Andrea Horwath, NDP leader and Hamilton Centre MPP. Vic Fideli, Conservative finance critic, was there too, as was Hamilton Mountain MPP Monique Taylor and Christine Van Geyn, Ontario director of Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

"When I become premier of this province, this will be my number one task, " Horwath told the crowd. 

"I will not rest until we change the electricity system back to a system that works for the benefit of the people of this province."

Electricity rates have been an increasing issue in Ontario since the Liberals privatized parts of the system in favour of green energy projects.

Sarah Warry-Poljanski, in orange, speaks to the crowd. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Recently, Ontario canceled plans for up to 1,000 megawatts of power from solar, wind and other renewable energy sources to try to curb the increase.

The province has also scrapped the debt retirement charge from household hydro bills and deferred construction of two new nuclear reactors in Darlington to avoid up to $15 billion in new construction costs. It will also remove the eight per cent provincial portion of the HST off of electricity bills.

The Tories say the government's green energy policies are misguided. Horwath blames the Liberals and previous Conservative governments for privatizing parts of the system.

"This is essential for you and your families," NDP leader Andrea Horwath tells the crowd. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault, meanwhile, said the last Conservative government left Ontario's electricity system in "a shambles," so the Liberals had to invest billions in new generation and transmission grid upgrades.

But for those gathered in front of city hall Wednesday, it was all about personal impact.

Kelly Bramer of Hamilton Mountain said her family of four has tried to conserve energy, but "I don't really see a big difference in the hydro bill," she said. The last bill for her family of four was more than $700 for two months.

"I'd like to see (rates) to go down to where they probably should be," she said. "That's pretty much it. I want it to go down."

samantha.craggs@cbc.ca | @SamCraggsCBC

With files from The Canadian Press


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