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76-year-old Toronto Hydro customer disconnected for winter

WATCH ABOVE: Rod Crookston, 76, is having a cold winter in the middle of Toronto. The reason? Toronto Hydro cut off his power last fall because he didn't pay a $1,400 bill. As Sean O'Shea reports, new legislation from the provincial government may soon outlaw winter cut-offs.

At age 76, Rod Crookston has spent three months living without power in his second-floor home where he has lived 45 years. There’s no hot water, no central heat and no lights.

Crookston was cut off by Toronto Hydro because his account is more than $1,450 in arrears.

“I guess I wasn’t paying them fast enough as they would like on a monthly basis,” Crookston told Global News.

He lives above his former photography store, which is now an unoccupied commercial unit he owns. Above the store, Crookston’s apartment is a jumble of boxes, construction supplies and items he’s trying to dispose of. He’s said he’d like to sell or rent out his home.

READ MORE: How much have hydro bills in Ontario really gone up?

“In a couple months, I should have them paid off,” he said, explaining that increasing hydro costs led to the ballooning bill.

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“I was paying them (Toronto Hydro) $50 to $100 a month.”

Crookston said he received a notice of disconnection on Aug. 17. Since then, he has been taking showers at a nearby YMCA and keeps the unit modestly warm by running a 2000-watt gasoline-powered generator in the rear of the building.

He said Toronto Hydro didn’t offer him payment options prior to being disconnected.

READ MORE: Ontario Liberals eye separate bill to end winter electricity disconnections

The utility, which declined to be interviewed, told Global News by email it has a long history with Crookston and there are several red flags with his account. Toronto Hydro also said disconnections are a “last resort.”

The Ontario government promised to end winter disconnections through new legislation. But the bill included unrelated provisions that opposition parties didn’t support. Now, Ontario’s minister of energy has given the province’s hydro electric utilities a time-limited ultimatum.

“I would hope that all parties recognize that we need to ensure that we put people first in this one and that’s why we’ll give every LDC (Local Distribution Company) until the end of the day today to get this done and if not there will be legislation tomorrow,” warned Ontario Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault after emerging from question period at the provincial legislature.

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McMaster University political science professor Henry Jacek said the Liberal government is in trouble if it doesn’t take steps to address hydro issues.

“It constantly adds to the view that the government is not handling the hydro file properly,” Jacek said.

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“It’s this drumbeat of bad stories that reinforces that the government does not have a good hydro policy.”

Jacek said consumer anger is building, which may not good for a government trying to win re-election next year.

“They cannot go into the summer and be afraid to use their air conditioning at night time. This makes people very angry, especially low-income people,” he said.

READ MORE: Brown and Horwath demand immediate end to winter hydro disconnections

Even if Ontario finally puts a legal end to winter disconnections, it may not be cause for celebration for those in a similar position as Crookston, who may find it difficult to get re-connected by Toronto Hydro.

He considers himself fortunate despite the hydro cut-off because he has a power generator.

“The utility should check out the circumstances. There could be an elderly or disabled person who doesn’t have a generator.”

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