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Alberta

Alberta NDP Opposition says Albertans need help to pay utility bills

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From the Alberta NDP 

NDP CALLS FOR UTILITY BILL RELIEF IN RESPONSE TO SHOCKING BILLS DURING PANDEMIC, ECONOMIC DOWNTURN

Alberta’s NDP is calling for major relief for consumers following a sudden surge in constituents coming forward with massive cost increases on their monthly electricity and overall utility bills.

The Office of the Utilities Consumer Advocate (UCA) cites a number of contributing factors to the upswing in prices in Alberta, including increased consumption while people are staying home to observe COVID-19 public health orders, increased use during the winter, increased costs for natural gas and electricity and increased transmission and distribution charges.

“There’s a compounding effect here and it’s hammering household budgets,” said NDP Leader Rachel Notley. “Many Albertans have to use more natural gas and electricity if they work from home or spend more time at home to help protect their communities from the spread of COVID. Couple that with soaring prices for natural gas and electricity and you’re seeing massive bills and no relief for families.”

In 2016, the NDP Government capped electricity prices under the Regulated Rate Option at 6.8 cents per kilowatt hour; however, Jason Kenney and the UCP removed it in late 2019. According to the UCA, average electricity prices have exceeded that previous cap in January, February and March of this year — the highest price was reported in February by EPCOR, which charged an average of 8.95 cents per kilowatt hour.

As well, natural gas prices are at highs not seen in seven years, with prices in March exceeding four cents per gigajoule — the last time prices were this high was in June 2014. For context, rates were just 1.6 cents per gigajoule in March 2020.

In response, the NDP is calling for the following four actions to be taken by the UCP immediately:

  • Provide direct consumer relief to two-thirds of Albertans (those earning up to $55,000 annually as an individual or $102,500 per couple). Model the relief program after the COVID-19 Energy Assistance Program offered by the Government of Ontario, which provided customers with up to $750 in support both their electricity and natural gas bills. Consumers can apply for relief on both bills separately, providing total potential relief of $1,500.
  • Reinstate the Regulated Rate Option cap for electricity at 6.8 cents per kilowatt hour.
  • Reinstate the Utility Payment Deferral Program, which allowed consumers and businesses to defer payment of bills but which ended last June.
  • Ban all utility shutoffs for Alberta homes until the pandemic ends and public health orders are lifted.

Notley noted that Albertans are already struggling greatly during the pandemic and economic downturn, with tens of thousands of jobs lost in the province and currently the second-highest unemployment rate in Canada. In a recent Angus Reid poll, the percentage of Canadians reporting that they are worse off than they were a year ago is highest in Alberta.

“We need action to help Albertans in this time of great need,” Notley said. “People doing the right thing and staying closer to home during this pandemic should not be penalized for doing so. We need real consumer relief from these glaring utility bills and we need it to last for the duration of the pandemic, no matter when it might end.”

Thousands of Albertans have written or come forward to the NDP Caucus with complaints and concerns about their utility bills. Calgary father Hassan Ali Nakokara lost his job early in the pandemic and has been struggling to pay bills since. In February, his monthly utility bill jumped to $850 from $450 the month prior.

“It’s impossible for me to pay that,” Nakukara said. “I’m out of work, I’m trying to support my kids while I look for work. The last thing I can do is hand over hundreds to heat and power my home. I need help and I’m desperately hoping the government will step up to help me and so many others.”

Fellow Calgarian Carolyn Nystrom said she and her husband have lived in their home since 2012 and paid between $250-300 for utilities per month. Her bill has been increasing rapidly since December – for March, the total reached $576. Nystrom said it appears the greatest increases are being seen on electricity and transmission charges.

“We are in a pandemic,” Nystrom said. “People have lost their jobs. People have spent their savings. My husband and I have both been fortunate to keep our jobs through all of this.  Even though we still get a paycheque, a bill doubling in three months is absolutely unaffordable … if companies like Enmax and Direct Energy can charge whatever they want per kilowatt hour or gigajoule, what can stop them?  And what can we do?  We live in Canada.  Being able to turn lights on is not exactly an option here.  We have to pay, and companies without regulations and caps know that.”

Correspondence and calls regarding spiking utility bills have come in from all over the province.

Airdrie mother Lisa Gilling said her most recent electricity bill shows the price being charged per kilowatt hour jumped from 5 cents to 19 cents per kilowatt hour and her bill for electricity alone totaled over $400.

“A three hundred per cent increase for a product or service is drastic but when it is an essential service, like electricity, it can be catastrophic, especially for a single-income family,” Gilling said. “Do you cut back on groceries in order to have lights and hot water?”

Mickey Moore, a senior living alone in Vermillion said his bill has risen by hundreds of dollars since the beginning of the year to more than $550 in March.

“Without some kind of control on essential service, with no real competition, how can we seniors expect to keep up on our fixed incomes?” Moore said. “Does the government plan to index seniors’ incomes to the rising utility costs? When we had regulated utility oversight there was some control and fairness applied.”

After 15 years as a TV reporter with Global and CBC and as news director of RDTV in Red Deer, Duane set out on his own 2008 as a visual storyteller. During this period, he became fascinated with a burgeoning online world and how it could better serve local communities. This fascination led to Todayville, launched in 2016.

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Alberta

Top-ranked Winnipeg Blue Bombers edge Edmonton Elks 37-22 for fourth straight victory

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EDMONTON — DeAundre Alford and Adam Bighill recorded defensive touchdowns as the league-leading Winnipeg Blue Bombers fought their way past the Edmonton Elks 37-22 Saturday.

The Blue Bombers (6-1) have won four games in a row while the Elks (2-4) have lost two straight and fell to 0-4 at home this season.

Winnipeg got off to a blazing start by scoring on its first drive, going 80 yards in nine plays, capped off by a 12-yard touchdown pass from QB Zach Collaros to Darvin Adams.

Collaros went 19 of 24 passing for 252 yards, a TD and an interception. 

The Bombers doubled their lead on their next drive as Nic Demski ploughed his way through several defenders for a 21-yard rushing major to make it 14-0.

Edmonton got back into the game midway through the second thanks to a Christian Rector fumble recovery on the Bombers’ nine-yard-line, leading to a James Wilder Jr. touchdown run.

Winnipeg kicker Ali Mourtada missed a 28-yard field goal attempt before Edmonton’s Sean Whyte nailed a three-pointer from 44 yards out to make it 15-10 at the mid-mark.

The Blue Bombers had 250 yards of offence in the first half to the Elks’ 125. QB Taylor Cornelius passed for 106 yards in the first half in his CFL debut as he replaced Trevor Harris, who was placed on the six-game injured list with a neck injury.

Cornelius finished the game with 19 completions on 33 pass attempts for 243 yards and three interceptions. 

Edmonton surged into the lead early in the third quarter with an unconverted 19-yard TD run by Wilder.

However the Bombers regained the lead as Alford picked off Cornelius and took it back 22 yards for the touchdown. A two-point convert made it 23-16 for Winnipeg.

Whyte responded with a 32-yard field goal before Mourtada missed his third field goal attempt of the game from 44 yards.

The Bombers defence did it again late in the third as Cornelius fumbled deep in his own end, leading to a three-yard scoop and score by Bighill.

After Whyte kicked a 19-yard field goal, Winnipeg put the game away with a one-yard TD plunge by Sean McGuire.

Both teams have a bye next week. The Elks’ next game will be in Ottawa on Sept. 28, while the Bombers will be in B.C. on Oct. 1. Winnipeg and Edmonton will then play each other again in a home-and-home series.

Notes: Two highly anticipated players made their Elks debuts: offensive lineman SirVincent Rogers and linebacker Derrick Moncrief… Winnipeg was trying its third place-kicker of the season with Mourtada making his CFL debut, relegating rookie Marc Liegghio to punting duties.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Veteran Canadian rider Mario Deslauriers wins Spruce Meadows Grand Prix

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CALGARY — Canada’s Mario Deslauriers and Bardolina 2 posted two clear rounds Saturday to take the Queen Elizabeth II Cup Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows.

In a jump-off with Mexico’s Carlos Hank Guerreiro and Australian Katie Laurie, Deslauriers and the 12-year-old mare didn’t put a rail down and topped the leaderboard with a time of 53.05 seconds.

Deslauriers said Bardolina 2 can be difficult to ride, but she was on her game Saturday in Calgary.

“Today, she jumped incredible,” Deslauriers said. “She was straight like an arrow and she jumped beautiful.”

Deslauriers and Bardolina 2 were Canada’s lone show jumping entry in the summer’s Tokyo Olympics where the duo placed 22nd.

“She was very good I think in the medal round (there),” Deslauriers said. “She had two fences down that were very cheap, but overall she jumped super well.

“Before she came here, she had to do three weeks quarantine because I was over my limit when I came back from Europe.

“Really, I jumped her one time at home, she got in the truck and came here, so I think she’s matured a lot. I can count on her. I don’t need to practise so much any more.”

Deslauriers, 56, is from Saint-Jean, Que., but lives in New York.

The North American is the last of three September tournaments totalling $5.6 million in prize money.

Spruce Meadows resumed hosting international show jumping events after a two-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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