Ontario hydro bill not enough to help struggling families, musician says

A Toronto dad struggling to pay his hydro bills blasted the province’s plan to offset high electricity prices, calling it "a joke."

Toronto dad thousands behind on bills says Kathleen Wynne's plan won’t make a difference

Bryant Didier, a musician who has performed across the city with several high-profile acts, said he's struggling to keep up with his hydro bills and a new plan hatched at Queen's Park doesn't go far enough to help. (CBC News)

A Toronto dad struggling to pay his hydro bills blasted the province's plan to offset high electricity prices, calling it "a joke."

Bryant Didier, a musician, said he owes Toronto Hydro nearly $2,000. The company is threatening to cut off his power if he doesn't pay $863 in the next ten days. Didier said he's doing everything he can to pay the bill, but that he isn't sure he'll be able to cover it while looking after his two sons.

The Liberal government's proposal to remove the provincial portion of the harmonized sales tax from hydro bills, which amounts to about $130 a year for a typical household, doesn't go far enough, Didier said.

"It's nothing," he told CBC News.

"It makes no difference to someone like me."

Didier said he's doing everything he can to use less electricity, but with the winter months looming he's getting concerned. His family already uses space heaters instead of his apartment's baseboard heaters and he puts plastic over every window. They wear extra layers indoors.

Didier said his family does everything it can to keep electricity use low. (CBC News)

His home has issues with the insulation in the attic that his landlord, Toronto Community Housing, hasn't fixed. And Didier doesn't have the resources to modify the apartment to run on a different fuel source — though at one point he was hoping to have solar panels installed.

Didier has had some help in the past from the Ontario Energy Board's Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP), though he said it's a lengthy process just to apply.

"It's arduous. You've got to provide months of income statements as well as banking statements as well as every piece of ID for your children and yourself," he said.

Fees, not provincial tax, the biggest hydro bill pain

His biggest problem, he said, are the additional charges that come along with his hydro bill, including the debt retirement charge, fees for delivery and regulation and the tax.

"I want to pay for the hydro I actually use, and not more," he said.

"It seems like I'm paying double what I should be every month."

For now, Didier continues to open his bills with a sense of dread and is hoping he can cut back in other areas enough to keep the electricity on.

"We have to skimp on everything … we are in a constant state of compromise and watching our nickels," Didier said.