Saskatchewan residents struggling to pay power bills in wake of rate hikes

SaskPower critic Aleana Young says an independent consumer advocate for power and utilities would assist Saskatchewan residents during the affordability crisis. Global News

Saskatchewan residents have seen high increases on their SaskPower bills after the company applied rate hikes in 2022.

These rate increases were approved by the Saskatchewan government following a petition from SaskPower.

“Our fuel and purchased power expenses have risen in the years since the last increase, primarily due to higher natural gas prices and the addition of renewable generation options — which we need to meet our target of reducing our greenhouse gas emission by at least 50 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.”

NDP Leader Carla Beck says rising rates are causing families to take difficult measures, including cutting back on food for their children, in order to pay their power bills.

On Thursday, Beck spoke to the public in Regina, confirming “The Sask. Party hiked energy bills 23 per cent with three weeks’ notice. They raised power bills eight per cent after campaigning on the promise of lowering them.”

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She suggested this has taken a huge hit on families and small local businesses.

Beck was expected to be joined by Nicole Daniel, a single mother of two children who works two jobs just to try to make ends meet. Unfortunately, due to her demanding work schedules, Daniel was unable to attend.

“She is one of many people in this province who is being left behind by this government,” Beck said, “People, despite working themselves to the bone to make ends meet during an affordability crisis, are still coming up short due to no fault of their own.

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“She fell behind on her increasing power bills and had her power turned off. She was not able to get a payment plan so in order to heat her home for herself and her kids, she had to pay that amount in full. Now she is at risk of eviction because she does not have enough to pay her rent.”

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“The last thing anyone needed were these power and energy utility hikes,” said SaskPower critic Aleana Young.

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“What we are missing in Saskatchewan is an independent consumer advocate to help ensure fair, affordable and predictable power and energy rates for households and businesses in this province.”

Saskatchewan is the only province in Canada that does not have an independent consumer advocate for power and utilities.

The NDP’s request for an independent consumer is part of their call for affordability relief for the province. An independent consumer advocate would help Saskatchewan residents access payment plans and help people facing evictions due to rate increases.

Beck said Saskatchewan residents are still waiting on utility rebates while Alberta was on their second round in July.

“This is not something that people can wait for,” said Beck, “people are having their utilities shut off, they are in danger or have actually been evicted.”

With colder temperatures on the way, Beck calls on the Saskatchewan government for immediate action.

“Saskatchewan people have the lowest natural gas bills in the country and have the second lowest utility package cost of all provinces,” responded the Saskatchewan government.

“The shift to more renewable generation and infrastructure modernization to ensure greater reliability and sustainability comes at a significant capital cost. Reliability and sustainability are made possible through earning from ratepayers and borrowing/debt at sustainable levels.”

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The government also said that both SaskEnergy and SaskPower are willing to work with those who are having difficulties paying utility bills.

“Disconnect only occurs as a last resort following multiple attempts to contact, establish a payment plan, and keep that payment plan.”

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