Posted on May 6, 2020
UCP UTILITY BILL NOT ENOUGH TO HELP STRUGGLING ALBERTANS
EDMONTON -- The UCP government's Bill 14, which allows for deferral of utility bills, does not go nearly far enough to help Alberta families, according to the NDP Official Opposition.
The bill allows utility customers to defer payments until June 18. However, it is expected that Albertans could struggle to pay household bills beyond June. Just yesterday, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce said it could take the economy 18 months to recover.
“We know families across the province will struggle greatly to make ends meet for many months to come,” said Irfan Sabir, NDP Energy Critic. “What playbook is the UCP operating from where they assume everything will be back to normal in two months’ time? We are calling on the UCP to provide a longer relief period for Albertans.”
While Alberta offers deferrals, other provinces are providing grants and direct relief to consumers.
In British Columbia, BC Hydro provides relief to customers who have lost their jobs or are unable to work as a result of COVID-19 through their Customer Crisis Fund. Small businesses that have been forced to close due to COVID-19 will also have their power bills forgiven for three months.
The Ontario Energy Board has stated that during the pandemic, customers will not be paying peak energy prices regardless of the time of day. The Ontario government has also extended its Low-income Energy Assistance Program by providing an additional $9 million to customers struggling to pay bills.
“In other provinces, governments are actually helping families cover some of the cost of mounting utility bills. The UCP should do the same. Albertans and businesses can’t carry thousands of dollars in debt,” said Sabir. “We want them spending money in stores and restaurants — that’s how we actually relaunch our economy.”
The bill also allows utility companies to borrow interest-free loans and then later recoup deferred utility fees with interest through special charges on customers' bills.
“The only ones who really benefit from Bill 14 over the long term are utility companies. It makes consumers liable for any losses that companies may occur. The first priority of this government should be supporting household budgets,” said Sabir.