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Kent

Hydro One removes transformer, leaves sick man in dark

Simon Kent

By Simon Kent, Special to the Toronto Sun

TORONTO - 

Hydro One, how could you?

Tony Kenny is too polite to ask but somebody has to pose the question.

On Sept. 5 he contacted the power utility to complain about frequent, unexplained power outages at his small farm just outside Peterborough in the community of Bailieboro.

Kenny pointed out that the power transformer on his property was failing and he wrote them it was “ancient ... along with the original poles which clearly say ‘Property of Ontario Hydro.’ ”

Kenny respectfully asked for a little help. He wrote: “Because Hydro powers the only source for water for myself, a necessity of life, and animals on the farm, could you please look into replacing the transformer and poles before there is a bigger problem?”

The bigger problem being that the supply of power is not just a necessity of life for his animals, there is another reason. Kenny lives on a disability pension.

He has a chronic heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy. It means he has medical needs that can only be sustained by the provision of electricity on a regular, 24/7 basis.

Kenny lives at the constant risk of cardiac arrhythmia and/or stoke. This has been compounded with late-onset adult diabetes, meaning he cannot work and Kenny’s only source of income is the Ontario Disability Support Program.

This was all outlined in his written plea to Hydro One for a better supply of electricity.

Two days later he had his reply.

The utility wrote to tell the 51-year-old they couldn’t help.

“Thank you for contacting us about power outages in your area,” the letter opened.

“Unfortunately, Hydro One cannot control all interference on our system which can cause power interruptions or voltage irregularities and from time to time, short power outages will occur on the system. Therefore, we cannot guarantee a constant supply of electricity.

“We strongly advise anyone that is dependent on electrically powered medical equipment to have a back-up generation source or alternative arrangements in the event of a power outage.

“As per our conditions of service, Hydro One cannot guarantee a continuous or constant supply of power and will not be liable for any damages caused by lack of power, a power outage or surge.”

It didn’t end there. On Sept. 10, Kenny claims without his knowledge and without notice or permission to enter his property, Hydro One workers arrived and took the transformer away.

They didn’t install a new one in its place.

Kenny has been in the dark ever since — literally and figuratively — and carts water by hand in the absence of power for his electric pumps.

“I don’t know what to do now,” Kenny said. “I contacted my MPP’s office and Jeff Leal couldn’t help. I live on my own and worry what would happen if my health started failing and I couldn’t raise help.

“I have lived here since 1995 and never had a problem with Hydro One, always paid my bills, but as soon as I complained, that was it.

“Nobody from Hydro One has even contacted me and given me an explanation for their actions.”

When the Toronto Sun approached the utility about the Kenny case, a Hydro One spokesman said they would only offer a comment if Kenny supplied a signed disclosure form via e-mail to look into his account.

“Which is great, but I don’t have the power on so I have no computer — so how can I fulfil that request?” Kenny retorted.

In a final twist, Kenny says there is one reminder of his dealings with Hydro One to remind him of the utility’s unintended but ironic approach to customer service.

There on the pole where the old transformer used to stand is a brand new smart meter; alone, unused and ultimately totally useless.

As Tony Kenny is willing to attest, much like Hydro One itself.

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Rural dwellers are not the only consumers who feel powerless when it comes to Hydro One.

Cottagers allege they suffer discriminatory pricing at the hands of the monopoly supplier, according to Rose Mary Rosada.

“If your cottage is not your primary residence ... you are billed for delivery charges at approximately 2 1/2 times that of a residence where the occupants live full time, even if they are next door to you, the cottager,” she said.

“On the road where our vacation property is, there are about 12 homes — four of which are full-time residents and the other eight are seasonal.

“Why is it Hydro One’s business whether this is my full-time or part-time residence (my time is split 50/50 at both) ... Bell Canada charges the same rate no matter how many residences you own.

“The only way Hydro One will change the way they bill my vacation property is if I have my mailing address for Canada Revenue Agency, my driver’s licence, etc. changed to my vacation property address.

“It’s none of Hydro One’s business and this is an invasion of my privacy on their part to be demanding this.”

Hydro One would not directly address the claim of discriminatory pricing other than to direct us to their statement on seasonal property pricing versus year-round home.

It says in part: “A delivery rate is the price you pay to have your electricity delivered to your seasonal residence. If you have a second home such as a cottage, chalets or camp area that is serviced by Hydro One you are a seasonal customer.”

The understanding being that seasonal means you pay more.

Why do they do that? Because they can. As a monopoly, Hydro One can do whatever it likes.


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