Students, seniors worry about high cost of home heating with latest furnace oil increase
Rent, groceries, gas prices add to struggle to pay heating bill
They're in different stages of their lives, but it's shaping up to be an expensive winter for students and seniors who are relying on furnace oil to heat their homes this year.
Compared with last year at the same time, furnace oil is about 40 cents more per litre, sitting at over a dollar per litre across Newfoundland.
Seniors' advocates are worried about the province's aging population and how they will fare this winter, but students, too, are feeling the squeeze.
Kat McLaughlin, chair of the Canadian Federation of Students Newfoundland and Labrador, told CBC News on Thursday that students live on low incomes and low budgets, and the increase in heating cost will affect many.
"Most students are living in rental units, and these units are often older houses and they don't have a lot of control over that," McLaughlin said.
"A lot of students are also in a situation where they're paying their own utilities, so the rise of heating costs is going directly out of their pockets. That's a huge, huge concern for students."
The rise in fuel prices comes at a challenging time for students, with Memorial University slated to increase tuition costs next fall.
McLaughlin said it's going to be "devastating."
"These increases, we're seeing them rolling out now, so for students paying their own utilities these are increases they're going to be facing now and these are going to continue," she said.
"For a lot of students who don't pay their own utilities, their rent is going to go up when their leases are renewed, which will be in the coming year when tuition is going to be nearly tripling."
McLaughlin said other factors, such as the price of groceries, gasoline and student debt, are making things harder for students to plan budgets, and some are even dropping out of school.
On Wednesday, non-profit group Seniors NL told CBC News it's concerned about the province's elder adults as winter looms and home heating bills begin to climb.
Mary Moylan, who is 79 years old and helped start the group Support Our Seniors Canada, said she shares those concerns.
She said she started the group because she kept finding seniors — mostly women — who are impoverished and needed the support. She said the group estimates about 6,000 senior women live in poverty in N.L. alone, but it's an issue across Canada.
With the increase in heating costs starting ahead of winter, Moylan said some seniors are worried about food and while some are selling their vehicles because of gas prices.
"You hear of food, and rent, and gas, and heating and turning things down so you can have some toast, and I hear that here. That's how impoverished people are," she said.
"It's going to be brutal, and it's undeserved and it just makes me very sad. Their declining years are spent like this, when they should be comfortable, and they're not. They're worrisome and they're full of deprivation."
Moylan, like McLaughlin, said heating oil increases make budgeting a challenge.
She said pride often prevents seniors from letting family members know they are struggling, whether it's with rent, groceries or heating.
"It's a terrible crisis in this country," said Moylan.
"It's huge. It's terrible. I don't know what the solution is, whether there should be kickbacks, whether it should be income-based perhaps. There's lots of solutions, but we're kind of the forgotten generation now."
With files from Jeremy Eaton