Hydro horror stories: tales from rural Ontario

Hydro One power lines during sunset in Kingston, Ont. Lars Hagberg / The Canadian Press

Residents of rural Ontario are outraged by ever-increasing hydro bills and the constant threat of disconnection. Facing an unresponsive utility provider, Hydro One customers from across the province are speaking out.

In the past three days alone, Global News has received more than 400 emails and messages from concerned Ontarians frustrated by the lack of government transparency and the apparent disregard with which industry regulators treat their concerns.

In their own words, read how the hopes and dreams of some rural Ontarians have become complete hydro nightmares.

READ MORE: 7 ways to lower your hydro bill this summer

Lindsay Ambeault, Sault Saint-Marie, Ont.

My husband and I have four children. One with autism. We have had to learn to eat only using $200 a month. Two of our children are in diapers – imagine the cost. We get the disconnection notice EVERY month and are behind approximately $1,000. I feel as though we work just to pay PUC. It is ridiculous!

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Matt Grassie, Peterborough, Ont.

I live just outside the city of Peterborough Ont., and I am impacted greatly by the cost of hydro.

My bills are OVER $600 a month, but I have seen bills in recent years over $1,000 a month. I have suffered disconnections in the past, the worst one being on Remembrance Day while I was at the Remembrance Day Service paying my respects (I am a Canadian Forces Veteran). Even with the banks closed, I managed to get them their money. They took two days to reconnect me. We are on electric heat, and our water pipes nearly froze because of sub-zero temperatures.

Gisele Gould, Seagrave, Ont.

My husband had a massive stroke five years ago and I am his only caregiver. I went for a rest, which I needed desperately, and while I was gone we had a problem with our propane heat. My husband’s caregiver (whom I had to pay) had to use electric heat, or they would have froze.

My bill for that month was $800. We are seniors and live on a fixed income. I have been trying to catch up ever since. This is unacceptable.

Andre Richards, Sutton, Ont.

We’re ready to be shut off over a $588 bill. We live north of Toronto in a small town. We haven’t been able to pay our bill in two months. Had the cut off letter last week. My wife pretended to make a payment to avoid disconnection and buy time until next Friday when she gets paid.

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We have five children, two remain at home. Didn’t put in the A/C this year for fear of using too much hydro. I’m on CPP disability as I’m in remission from cancer. In the winter we use our wood burning stove because we shut our breakers off as we have baseboard heaters. Next week we’ll pay our bill and buy maybe $50 worth of food to hopefully survive.

Patricia Peluso, Sebright, Ont.

In the three years since my husband passed away, I have paid approximately $20,000 in electricity for our cottage. This winter we shut off everything, with the exception of one baseboard heater, so not to freeze the hot water heater. Our energy usage was $292 for January to March, three months, not unreasonable. Our delivery charges were $986. With other fees and charges the bill totaled $1,367.

I have had to put it up for sale, and currently have it rented. I just can’t afford the electric cost anymore. Although this is not a home, and only our cottage, it is our family cottage, and was a favorite place of my late husband.

Satpal Channa, Dufferin, Ont.

I live in Dufferin County and have been struggling to pay my hydro bill for the last four years. My bill averages $400 a month in the summer and $650 in the winter. I have a ten-year-old who is not allowed to play any video games or watch TV.

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We sit in the dark on most days or use candle light. In the winter we huddle by the fireplace with heavy clothes and blankets and barely switch on the furnace. On most days, it seems like I am living in a third world country. I have been disconnected twice in the past. I have written to my MP and Kathleen Wynne, and got no response from them.

Carole Legault, Azilda, Ont.

I pay $660 a month in hydro on equal billing. My bill keeps increasing. I’m so stressed and upset about it. I have been working more and spending less time with my kids to pay my hydro bill. I’ve been less patient with my family due to the added stress caused by the high cost of hydro.

To conserve the hydro use I now hang all my laundry on the clothes line. I unplugged my clothes dryer to ensure that nobody uses it. I keep reminding my kids to close the lights. We cook on the BBQ to avoid a higher hydro cost.

We heat our house with wood, but would love to have some additional heat due to the extreme cold weather we get during the winter months. Instead we cover up with extra blankets.

We have three kids and struggle to buy food. I make a good income so we don’t qualify for subsidies. Yet we are struggling.

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Jason Ladouceur, Parry Sound, Ont.

We bought our house three years ago. Since then Hydro One has taken every penny we have, including our son’s education fund! We can’t keep up and are waiting any day now for them to cut us off!

It’s a fear we’ve been facing for years now, at the brink of leaving everything behind. We’ve installed a wood stove, but with no power to run our water I don’t think we could make it through this winter.

We owe them over $4,000. And even paying them $500 a month, it still keeps adding up, with $500, $600, $700 bills per month.

Alex Isajev, Bobcaygeon, Ont.

I’m on ODSP. I’ve had my hydro threatened to be cut off. Not long ago, a worker from Hydro One was in my driveway ready to disconnect. Scared the heck out of me! I explained that I called the Leap program and have been in touch with Hydro One.

I had an organ transplant. I know I have to eat properly, but it’s come down to eating and having my lights on now. Scared. I’d appreciate you not use my full name. Not being able to keep my hydro is embarrassing! [Isajev later agreed to have his full name used.]
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