Heating oil costs a concern for N.L. seniors' organization, while gas prices hit new record high
'We hear from seniors every day who are making choices between food, and rent and utilities'
Furnace oil prices are now more than dollar a litre across Newfoundland, meaning there could be implications as the weather cools off for people who already struggle financially.
The director of information and referral services for SeniorsNL — a non-profit organization that promotes the independence and well-being of seniors through information, programs and services — told CBC News 14 per cent of all calls her organization receives are from people who are having trouble paying their bills.
"We hear from seniors every day who are making choices between food, and rent and utilities," Elizabeth Siegel said.
"We're hearing from seniors that for the first time ever are using food banks. So if their food budget is being squeezed out I can only imagine what that's going to do to their budget for heating."
For the same period in October 2020 furnace oil was just over 60 cents per litre across the island, the outlier being in the Gaultois, McCallum, Rencontre East area where the price reached just over 78 cents. But since Sept. 23, the price across the island has been more than a dollar in all regions.
As of Thursday morning, with the Public Utilities Board's weekly price-setting in effect, furnace oil costs $1.034 per litre on the northeast Avalon, $1.064 on the northwest Avalon, as much as $1.099 on the Northern Peninsula, $1.043 in the Corner Brook area, and $1.074 in central Newfoundland.
Even last year, Siegel said, her organization heard from seniors who were turning off electricity in their homes in all rooms except for one. She said others turned down their heat very low and instead sat by a heated oven.
"Absolutely it's going to mean a lot of cold people," Siegel said.
"Food is always concerning, but also we get 'I can't afford my medication,' which is also scary, or 'I'm taking my medicine in half a dose because I can't afford that and to heat my home.' It's really concerning about the choices they have to make."
Gas hits record high
Meanwhile, all other fuel types also increased Thursday.
With the maximum price of gasoline jumping up by 4.3 cents per litre, it marks yet another record for the province as the highest cost ever.
Regular self-serve gasoline will cost consumers $1.591 a litre around the Avalon Peninsula, $1.616 in central Newfoundland, $1.598 in the Corner Brook and Deer Lake area, $1.657 in western Labrador, $1.508 in central Labrador and $1.673 in southern Labrador.
Christina Cobb hit the pumps on Wednesday before any changes came into effect. She told CBC News gasoline is beginning to become unaffordable.
"It's a bit ridiculous," Cobb said.
"Even with my small car I only put $20 in it because now it'll cost $60 to fill it up. Before I could usually get $40 to fill up my tank. As a student it's becoming unaffordable."
The maximum price of diesel fuel on the island is also up, by 9.4 cents per litre, while in zones 13 and 13a in Labrador it rose by 4.7 cents per litre.
The maximum price of furnace oil increased by 0.14 cents per litre and stove oil is up 4.13 cents per litre.
For propane heating, the maximum price per litre increased by 1.9 cents per litre.
The following chart shows how gas prices have changed recently at Newfoundland and Labrador retailers, as reported by users of the GasBuddy.com website.
With files from Henrike Wilhelm