Community groups plan protest against Hydro rate hike

Hydro-Québec’s electricity rates went up April 1 by 4.3 per cent, the highest increase since 2004 — but that’s less than the 5.8 per cent the company had orginally asked the Quebec energy board for.

Hydro-Québec reports more than $522M in unpaid customer bills

Hydro-Québec rates went up by 4.3 percent April 1, the biggest increase since 2004. (Radio-Canada)

Community groups are planning to protest the 4.3 per cent Hydro-Québec rate hike that went into effect this morning.

The increase comes as more and more Quebecers are having problems paying for their electricity as it is, with $522 million in Hydro bills past 30 days overdue in 2013.

Ghazala Munawar is the manager at the South Asian Women's Community Centre​, where she says many of the more than 2000 clients are on a fixed income.

Munawar worries this latest rate hike will make it harder for her clients to pay their bills.

"We call Hydro to ask them if they can make equalized payments. Still it is difficult," said Munawar.

Marc-Olivier Moisan-Plante is an energy analyst at Union Consommateur, and has been tracking the unpaid bills since the 2008 recession.

He says back then, the utility was owed less than half the amount it is owed now.

"We have a large amount of debt owed to Hydro-Québec. If there is another economic downturn, we are worried this will lead many families to bankruptcy," said Moisan-Plante.

Hydro-Quebec had requested a 5.8 per cent increase this year, but the energy board decided that was too high.

Last year, rates went up 2.4 per cent.

CAQ oppose hike

Coalition Avenir Québec leader, François Legault,​ says if elected, he would cancel the hike.

Legault says he would only allow increases indexed to inflation and says today's increase is too high for Quebec families to bear. 

"We have to understand that most workers don't have an increase of 4.3 per cent, old people having pensions, they don't have an increase of 4.3 per cent. So it's not fair," said Legault.

Legault blames the rate hike on the province's investment in wind farms and that industry should be put on hold, because it's costing Quebecers too much money.

Community groups are set to protest against the rate hikes Thursday afternoon at Place Émilie-Gamelin.


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