Windsor

MPP calls for action on water shut offs during pandemic as 81 Windsorites remain cut off

Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield wants the government to take action to prevent utility companies from being able to shut off water during the pandemic.

Percy Hatfield wants the government to ensure that no one gets their water turned off in the pandemic

Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield asked the provincial government in question period Thursday why the government is allowing utilities commissions to cut off water during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Michael Hargreaves/CBC)

Windsor-Tecumseh NDP MPP Percy Hatfield wants the provincial government to make sure utility companies can't cut off Ontarians' water during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a question period at Queen's Park Thursday, he asked the government why it is allowing utility commissions to cut off water during a difficult financial time for many.

"We're dealing with a worldwide pandemic. We're told to wash our hands frequently to protect ourselves," Hatfield said. "Why is the government allowing local utilities commissions to cut off water service during the pandemic?"

In an interview, Hatfield said that although his office has only heard from one constituent on the issue, he believes it could be indicative of a broader problem.

"In this case, obviously one is too many," he said. "If it's happening to the one person in my riding, it's happening across the city and it could be happening soon across the province."

"We have to wash our hands, we have to wash our clothes, we have to wash our face masks, and if you don't have any water, you can't do that," he added.

81 residential water accounts disconnected

Windsor's ENWIN Utilities put in place a moratorium on water shut offs in March that lined up with a provincial ban on electricity disconnections due to the pandemic.

Though the moratorium was lifted at the end of July, ENWIN President and CEO Helga Reidel said the utility wants to work with customers to avoid any shut downs.

"Regardless of whether it's electricity or water, we do work with our customers. We give extensions where we see that efforts are being made to pay."

She added that there are programs available for those struggling with their bills, and encouraged customers to reach out to the utility.

According to ENWIN, 81 residential water accounts are currently disconnected, along with four commercial ones. Following the end of the moratorium, the number of residential accounts disconnected was as high as around 500.

Reidel said she understands Hatfield's sentiment and will re-institute the ban on disconnections if regulators implement one.

"We certainly have a lot of compassion for our customers who are having difficulty at this time. At the same time, there is a cost to operating this service and these are processes that have been in place for many, many years."

Paul Calandra, the government house leader, responded to Hatfield's question Thursday during Question Period, and agreed that is an issue.

"[Hatfield] is quite correct: Having access to water during a pandemic is incredibly important," Calandra said. "So he has my firm commitment that on the conclusion of question period today, I will reach out to the minister of energy and inquire for him immediately."

Hatfield said he's pleased with the response.

"I think I had a good response, the government house leader thanked me for raising it, and said [the water utility companies] shouldn't be doing it, and he was going to take action as soon as he found the best way to do that," Hatfield said.

"I'm just glad that they responded well because we can't allow this to happen. We can't allow this to happen right across the province. It just makes no sense at all."

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