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Home heating deserves attention this election

Social services clients in Newfoundland are literally left out in the cold. I believe they are the only province in Canada that does not pay the full heat and light bills for their client.

They receive $50 as a fuel allowance per month for that purpose and have not received an increase since the 2013 budget.

This is extremely frustrating since NL Power sought rate increases of 7.2 per cent on April 17, 2013, but the rates increased by 5 per cent on July 1, 2013, 2 per cent on July 1, 2014, and a proposed 3.6 per cent to take effect on July 1, 2016.

The government ended its Residential Energy Rebate, which was the equivalent of the 8 per cent HST charges monthly on July 1, 2015. So if you had a basic bill of $100 three years ago, by July 1, 2016 the Advanced Education and Skills client is paying $19.83 more per month! That’s a total increase of 19.83 per cent in three years!

How is anyone expected to only have a bill of $50 a month (plus the $250 rebate a year) work out to $70.83 per month? You can’t even run basic lights and a hot water boiler on this amount.


'Eliminating the Residential Energy Rebate'

I realize that each province has variances in their social services programs to allow for specifics for each province, but this is Canada, and if one province needs heat in winter, they all do.    

This difference is inhumane in comparison. If other provinces can pay for full heat with no penalty or claw back to the client, why not Newfoundland?

There are many who have no choice but to avail themselves of the services provided by social services due to disabilities and illness. These people are especially vulnerable to not having heat in their homes, not to mention the stress of trying to find the money to pay that bill each month.

No heat means mold, dampness, and illnesses such as bronchitis, pneumonia, arthritis, vitamin deficiencies, weakened immune systems and more! With this comes increased health care costs, missed school, and increased drug costs, adding much much more to the provinces incurred costs than if they received the initial proper heat in the first place!

This is 2015 — surely we can do better and treat all Canadians with some fairness from one end of Canada to the other.  We cannot have become so hardened as to ignore easily remedied social situations such as those above.

Babies and children should not be forced to live in cold houses just because their parent or parents find themselves in circumstances that require them to turn to social services.

For those that believe that the only ones that are on social services are drunks and druggies who spend the money on cigarettes or gambling, that is, in 99 per cent of cases, misinformation on the part of a society fed on stereotyping myths.

First of all if there is abuse of the system, that’s the system’s fault (largely in part governmental departments’ failure to provide adequate funds so people won’t have to resort to ‘cheating’ to make ends meet), not the fault of the individual.  

Secondly, if they choose to waste it that way, that really is their choice. Society has no more right telling them how to spend that money than I do telling you how to spend your cheque, especially when they are living on far less per month than should be allowed.

Could you, honestly, live on $1,000 per month to pay all your bills and still eat healthy? I think not!

In this election year I call on all three political leaders, incumbents, those in positions of authority and private citizens, to make government funded and fully absorbed winter heating an election priority, with no claw back or loss of client monies, much the same as it is in other provinces! No household should have to choose between supper on the table and heat for the home.

Wanda White writes from Broad Cove. She represents Persons for Welfare Rights in Newfoundland.

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