Nfld. & Labrador

Record home heating prices will hurt seniors, warn advocates

The price of furnace oil jumped by 20 cents per litre on Friday, a day after the price rose 3.6 cents per litre on Thursday.

Fixed incomes not keeping up with rising prices, says pensioners' association

Sharron Callahan. executive director of Newfoundland and Labrador Public Sector Pensioners’ Association, says the record high price of home heating oil will have a large impact on seniors, many of whom live on pensions or otherwise fixed incomes. (Henrike Wilhelm/CBC)

While people are feeling sticker shock this week at gas pumps across Newfoundland and Labrador, two seniors' advocates say they're particularly worried about a dramatic increase in the cost of home heating oil.

The price of furnace oil jumped by 20 cents per litre Friday, just one day after the price rose 3.6 cents per litre.

"It was complete shock.… To have the increase to the magnitude it was overnight was alarming, catastrophic, devastating," Sharron Callahan, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Sector Pensioners' Association and the province's Coalition of Seniors, told CBC News on Friday.

"It's almost impossible to imagine how some folks are going to be able to cope with that."

Callahan says the average cost of filling a home fuel tank was between $450 and $500 in March 2021. It now costs more than $800, she said.

The rising costs will be felt by everyone in the province, she said, but particularly by seniors, many of whom live on a pension or fixed income.

"They're worried about how they're going to get their medications, they're worried about how their going to get healthy food," Callahan said.

"These programs and pension income are not keeping pace with the costs that are happening. It's way beyond our capacity to manage."

'This doesn't affect only the price of fuel'

Pensioners' association board member Ralph Morris said the rising cost of living amplifies the hardships that come with rising fuel prices.

"This doesn't affect only the price of fuel. This applies to everything.… They're basically living from a week after payday, then they're wondering where the dollars are going to come from for food, groceries, fuel and heat and all those other things," said Morris.

"There are a tremendous amount of people in this province who are living to or below the poverty line. And even some of those who are just over the poverty line today aren't able to make ends meet."

Association board member Ralph Morris says there's a 'tremendous amount' of people in Newfoundland and Labrador living below the poverty line. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

In a media release Friday, the association called on the provincial government to take "immediate action" to combat rising fuel prices and to implement provincial tax relief measures.

"They're the people that we look to. They're the people that provide us with that assistance when times get tough," Callahan said. "And if they've ever been tough, they're the toughest they are right now."

Callahan said she also hopes fuel companies will show patience and compassion through the winter, as the rising prices could leave some people struggling to pay their bills.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Henrike Wilhelm and CrossTalk

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