A Toronto senior whose electricity was disconnected in late October because of non-payment had his hydro restored Wednesday evening thanks to the generosity of Global News viewers.
Rod Crookston, 76, was disconnected by Toronto Hydro on Oct. 25 after the power bill for his two-bedroom, north-end Toronto apartment home reached over $1,600. Eight other residential customers of the utility remain without power, according to a Toronto Hydro spokesperson.
Crookston said he couldn’t afford to make the full bill payment last fall, even though the utility confirmed he paid $100 to them a month after he was disconnected. That partial payment did not result in a resumption of service.
“I guess I wasn’t paying enough,” he told Global News while describing how he didn’t intentionally fall short on his bill. He said he hoped to pay it off “in a couple of months” while attempting to make more modest monthly payments.
Toronto Hydro said it offered Crookston a bill payment option, but officials said he did not respond to their overtures.
Crookston, who has lived in the same location since 1972, is one of a growing number of Ontario electricity customers facing rising rates and growing difficulty meeting those expenses while on a fixed income.
The hydro issue has been a major one for the Ontario Liberal government, which introduced legislation Wednesday to ban the practice of disconnecting a customer’s power during the winter months.
Some other utilities, like Hydro One which services predominantly rural customers, have already voluntarily ended the practice of disconnecting customers in the winter.
Technically, Toronto Hydro disconnected Crookston prior to the unofficial winter heating season. Even so, he has not had power since fall. He has relied exclusively on a small, 2000-watt, gasoline-powered generator in the rear of his building in order to power a few small electrical devices and a space heater.
Crookston’s plight was first revealed on The Andrew Lawton program on AM980 News radio in London, Ont. As a caller to the program, Crookston told Lawton that the province’s Liberal government and its hydro policies were largely responsible for his hardship.
When Global News viewers were exposed to Crookston’s situation, they came forward en masse with offers to help.
Through email, Twitter and Facebook, some offered to pay his bill in part while others offered to settle the bill in its entirely.
Among them was Tim Birnie, president of Birnie Electic and Birnie Home Safe, in Mississauga.
“When I saw Rod’s story, I thought to myself, ‘This man is heating his home with a portable generator in lieu of hydro and this is dangerous.’ I felt compelled to help Rod out,” he told Global News.
When contacted by Global News to relay word of the bill payment, Crookston was touched by the gesture.
“My God, thank you so much,” he said, insisting on thanking the company personally and repaying the gesture when he has more money at hand.
Toronto Hydro normally takes up to 24 hours to restore power to a customer disconnected for non-payment, a practice it said it considers a last resort.
But on Wednesday, the utility dispatched a road crew within two hours. Toronto Hydro staff ascended to the hydro line and reconnected hydro at the pole outside his unit.
For the first time in four months, Crookston can turn on his wall lights, set his microwave oven and crank up his wall heater, if necessary.
The power is back on.