Pulling the teeth out of the Muskrat: Holyrood council votes to press the province again for its mitigation plan
By Chris Lewis | Vol. 32 No. 1 (March 20 2019)
Rate mitigation and how it will affect residents of Newfoundland and Labrador was again a topic of heavy discussion in the council chamber at Holyrood late last month.
Holyrood Mayor Gary Goobie, who has raised the subject of looming electricity rates at least three times in the past few months, told council he was working on another letter on the subject to the provincial and asked for his colleagues’ endorsement. Goobie noted the measures the province eventually uses to mitigate the rate increases will affect not only residents of Holyrood, but the entire province.
With confirmation coming from the Public Utilities Board recently that without rate mitigation electricity rates would double in the future, Goobie said he hopes to see some guarantee coming from government that the mitigation timeline will be fully maintained. He said the only way to accomplish this is in the form of provincial legislation.
“While the public has been given a verbal commitment by government that rates will not double, I would like to see legislation enacted when the House of Assembly reconvenes next week,” Goobie said referring to the current sitting of the legislature. “We need affirmation that this commitment will in no way be jeopardized in the future. Ratepayers need a guarantee that rate mitigation will not be manipulated, compromised or even gradually phased out over a reduced period of time due to extenuating circumstances, such as affordability.”
Goobie said that with an election only a few months away, a built-in timeline protection is needed during this sitting of the house.
He also noted that he would like to hear the position of the various parties regarding the issue.
“Will they support us and advocate on our behalf in having this proposed legislation, or an amendment to such legislation, passed during this upcoming session in the House?” the mayor asked.
With the rest of council agreeing to give him the go ahead, Goobie said he will outline the town’s concerns and suggestions in a letter to Premier Dwight Ball, Finance Minister Tom Osborne, the Government Leader in the House of Assembly, Minister of Natural Resources Siobhan Coady, Harbour Main MHA Betty Parsley, and the two leaders of the opposition parties.
Coun. Kim Ghaney agreed a concrete plan is necessary, but observed it has been lacking up to this point.
“While I think that there needs to be legislation, I think what’s been lacking, and what continues to be lacking, and even seems to be lacking as we move forward, is a plan,” she said. “We’re hearing a lot that there will be rate mitigation, but there’s no plan – not from the current party in power, or from the party that wants to be in power. There’s just no plan. I think that if this is going to be an election issue, I’d suggest to anybody running for provincial MHA positions that they get a plan in order. I don’t think the residents of this province will settle for anything less. I know I won’t.”
Ghaney allowed there was little point in stating the obvious, that residents of the province simply won’t be able to afford doubled electricity rates.
“Everyone knows we won’t be able to afford it. We all know this, every politician knows this. They’re all saying they’re going to do something, and that it’s not going to happen, but nobody’s saying how that’s going to work,” Ghaney said. “The money needs to come from somewhere, so they need to come up with a concrete plan.”
Goobie said he would like to see a timeline of how long the rates will be mitigated, again raising the worry that the province will only cushion the rates for a short period.
“All I’m asking is that there be something enshrined in legislation to say, ‘Okay, it’s going to be in place for the next 10 years,’ and to give ratepayers that protection and guarantee,” he said.