Ontario Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault has asked all electricity distributors in Ontario to immediately stop disconnecting customers during the winter.
In a letter sent Thursday, Thibeault asked CEOs of the province’s 70 electricity companies to begin “immediately and voluntarily implementing a policy of ending residential disconnections during the winter.”
The letter goes on to say that at no point and under no circumstance, should customers be “put at risk over their electricity bills.”
The letter also acknowledges that the government’s efforts to clean up the province’s electricity system over the past decade have come at a price far too high for many families in Ontario.
“The transformation of our system was for the better, but it has come at a cost that presents a challenge to many Ontarians,” Thibeault said in the letter.
“Local distributors know this well – interacting directly with customers in your communities across the province.”
VIDEO: Patrick Brown demands government to end winder hydro disconnections
Thibeault’s call to end winter disconnections comes following a series of Global News reports that revealed many companies in Ontario continue to shut off power to customers’ homes during even the coldest winter months.
In certain cases – like in Thibeault’s home riding of Sudbury – companies admit they’ll cut off a customer’s power until the temperature drops below -20 C.
Both Andrea Horwath and Patrick Brown, leaders of the NDP and Progressive Conservatives, demanded as recently as last week that Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Liberal government put an end to winter disconnections.
They called on the government to either put forward legislation to end disconnections immediately or direct the province’s energy regulator to stop companies from cutting people off in the winter. “I don’t want more delays,” said Brown.
“I’m calling on the government, calling on the minister, calling on this Liberal Party to finally do the right thing on Hydro.”
Meanwhile, Thibeault also sent letters to the NDP and Conservative energy critics asking for their support on Bill 27 – a piece of legislation that could end winter disconnections for good.
VIDEO: Andrea Horwath says legislation to prevent hydro disconnections in winter should be expedited
Bill 27, or the Burden Reduction Act, is a 158-page omnibus Bill that has been before the Ontario Legislature since June.
Once passed, the Bill will give the Ontario Energy Board the authority to decide when electricity companies can and cannot cut off a customer’s power for non-payment.
The PCs, who say they support the Bill, say the government is stalling and playing politics with winter disconnections.
Horwath, whose party opposes Bill 27, believes winter disconnections should be handled separately – and not as a part of a massive omnibus Bill.
“When it comes to something as simple as a moratorium on ending Hydro One and other utilities from shutting off the hydro to people in the winter months, that has to be dealt with separately,” Horwath said.
WATCH: Hydro customer threatened with disconnection after missing 1 payment. Sean O’Shea reports.
Story by Brian Hill, Global News