By Bonnie Wurst – mtltimes.ca
In the real world… Hydro-QC recently announced it made $1.8 billion this past winter, thanks to how cold it was. Their profits increased 2.2 per cent to $1.79 billion in the first quarter and electricity sales in Quebec increased by $263 million to $3.99 billion. Their success was won by our frozen defeat – and emptier wallets.
To show their appreciation, they hiked our residential rates by 2.9% on April 1st, after we already received a 4.3% hike in 2014.
A generic email message I received from them just before the increase was the precursor to their power surge. With what has become their annual mantra, they kindly advised me, “You can expect to see an increase on your monthly bills.”
“Our cold weather from January through March 2015 has had an impact on electricity bills,” they chanted. But I already knew that, I paid the bills. And it continued, “For customers who heat with electricity, they will be an average of 11% higher than in winter 2014… if you’re likely to see a difference of 15% or more, you’ll soon be receiving a notice saying so.”
Based on their past performance, if it’s just under at 14.99%, I guess there will be no notice sent out to help ease the pain – or do their studies show that a severe electrical shock received at under 15% is not life threatening? Something like a power surge, but absorbed rectally.
And it ended with, “… there haven’t been so many days in a row with a temperature below zero since 1977.” Gee, thanks for letting me know. Really? I had no idea, because I was too wrapped up this past winter – wrapped up in layers upon layers of thermal socks, underwear, gloves, earmuffs, scarves and parkas, while still getting frostbite from trying to get the doors of a perpetually frozen car open, even though it’s parked inside. I could swear I saw penguins on the Decarie expressway last February. It’s June and my internal organs are still thawing out.
A Hydro-QC spokesperson said the increase was mostly due to the government’s wind power project – part of their ‘regional economic development’ plan. Apparently Hydro’s costs increased by having to purchase electricity produced by wind energy – energy they say we don’t need and won’t use, as we get more than enough from the hydro-electric dams. And so the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
How comforting it is to know that the environmental aftermath and destruction to land, wildlife and people, resulting from the creation of the dams was worth the effort and able to satisfy our insatiable electric needs. Somewhat like what the tar sands in Alberta do for their insatiable appetite for bitumen.
My real concern is this; where are the benefits for us in Quebec from our natural resource? Albertans have received benefits from their oil soaked province. In fact, they landed quite a ‘windfall’ of their own.
In 2006 Albertans received PROSPERITY CHEQUES from their government. They spent $1.4 billion of their 2005 provincial surplus on cheques worth $400 for every man, woman and child in the province – as a way of sharing the province’s energy wealth from its oil and gas resources. No joke.
Albertans also enjoy low property taxes, the lowest gasoline tax rate in Canada and they pay NO EXTRA TAX on top of the GST. True, the future for them is looking rather gloomy – with the drop in oil prices and inevitable transformation towards clean energy, but hey, where’s our Prosperity Package?
Albeit, oil runs like gold through the veins of their provincial coffers. Our liquid gold unfortunately is not as mineral rich, but surely enough to offer Quebecers a break from the steady flow of increases on our electric-shocking bills. With a little extra money to line our parkas and long johns next winter, maybe the cold wouldn’t feel as shocking.
As Bob Dylan put it, “And how many times can a man turn his head, and pretend that he just doesn’t see? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind… the answer is blowin’ in the wind.”
Bonnie Wurst is a reporter, a weekly columnist and feature writer for the Montreal Times newspaper. She is a novelist, ghost writer (not the scary kind) and humorist. Her book “Damaged Goods Re-Stitched” can be found on Amazon.com. For ‘HUMOR SOUP FOR THE SOUL’ speaking engagements & workshops, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org