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Protests ‘keeping the pressure up’ during Newfoundland and Labrador Public Utilities Board hearings

Keith Fillier is one of several people involved in organizing protests concerning utility rate increases.
Keith Fillier is one of several people involved in organizing protests concerning utility rate increases. - Contributed

As the Public Utilities Board (PUB) hears more evidence this week about a proposed rate hike from Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, some people concerned about the increases proposed by provincial utilities are planning protests.

One of those people is Clarenville resident Keith Fillier.

Using social media platforms, Fillier and others are organizing protests to express their concerns with rate increases. That included the #MakeNLDarkAgain power shut-off protest last month, as well as an online petition signed by more than 12,000 people so far.

On Friday, a group is planning to protest rate hikes outside the PUB office at 120 Torbay Rd. between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Protesters discussing their plans on the Free NL Facebook page mentioned showing up with suitcases to symbolize the number of people leaving the province, or wearing hats and mittens to symbolize people who will struggle to keep their homes heated during the winter.

On Tuesday, Fillier kicked off a letter-writing campaign asking elected officials to do more to protect people against rising electricity rates.

Fillier emailed his MHA, Colin Holloway, and copied several other politicians, media outlets and utilities.

“In my opinion, there isn't enough thought put into finding ways to lessen the burden being placed on ratepayers,” he wrote.

“We've been promised mitigation measures are being looked at, but all we see are utilities presenting rate increase applications to the Public Utilities Board.”

Fillier asked Holloway what work has been done to ensure N.L. Hydro has streamlined its operating budget “by all means possible before looking for rate increases.”

On social media, Fillier encouraged others to write to their elected officials to express their concerns, and explain the effect the expected increases over the next several years will have on their quality of life.

“Single mothers struggle to pay bills that they know are impossible to pay,” Fillier wrote. “We can't afford this and we can't wait for the house to reopen to hear about your government's plans. We need to know now. When can we meet to hear about your progress?”

Fillier told The Telegram the group of protest organizers are speaking for people who feel they don’t have a voice.

“People depended for years on their elected representatives to look out for them and they trust the system, and the system is failing these people. How are these people going to understand all of these percentages and the different aspects of the Muskrat Falls project? What people understand is what money is coming in and what bills they’ve got. That’s what they understand — living. And they’re having difficulty.”

In his letter, Fillier wrote that he’s asking politicians to “do the job you were elected to do … and represent the people that live in this province.”

At press time Wednesday, Fillier said he received a response to his letter from Mount Pearl-Southlands MHA Paul Lane. Fillier said he did not receive a response from anyone else.

The Telegram telephoned and emailed Holloway for a comment on the letter, but did not receive a response by deadline.

Meanwhile, Fillier said he will continue to participate in such protests, adding that a group of people is working on planning another provincewide, co-ordinated protest.

“We plan on keeping the pressure up,” he said.

“We want to hold the government accountable to represent its people and come up with solutions.”

juanita.mercer@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @juanitamercer_

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