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Hydro nearly cut off to disabled child

Would not be able to power ventilator needed to survive

Canadian Press - October 29, 2002
by Colin Perkel

The Ontario government ound itself on the defensive Monday over the possibility that a disabled child will lose the electricity that powers his ventilator because his mother can't pay her hydro bill.

Kelly Bryce is living off her student loan as she struggles to complete her nursing degree and care for two-year-old Jaiden, who needs the ventilator to breathe.

In a desperate plea for help, Bryce's father, Michael Baxmeier, e-mailed Premier Ernie Eves and other politicians to let them know Hamilton Hydro was about to turn off the power to his daughter because she can't pay the $479.28 she owes for two months. "Where can we turn for assistance and how can I stand by and watch this happen to my daughter and grandchildren?'' he wrote.

Liberal member Marie Bountrogianni called on the government to intervene immediately given the consequences if Jaiden's power is cut off.

"(Bryce) cannot pay her hydro bill because it has skyrocketed," said Bountrogianni.

"Her child needs this (ventilator) to live. It can't be cut off."

Energy Minister John Baird said he would look into the case "in very short order" but offered no specific guarantees of help.

In the legislature, Baird also found himself having to answer to suggestions that publicly owned Ontario Power Generation has been gouging consumers over the summer.

In its latest report, the company announced $215 million in net profits over the three months ending in September.

"Millions of Ontario electricity consumers -- residential, commercial and industrial -- are paying through the teeth for this kind of earnings report with extravagantly high electricity prices," said Liberal Sean Conway.

NDP Leader Howard Hampton said OPG's profits shows that the government has created fertile ground for companies to make excessive profits at the expense of consumers.

"This just tells you how incredibly profitable a privatized, deregulated hydro system is for corporations and how incredibly expensive it is for ordinary consumers," he said.

"You've got a captive market, so they just keep driving up the price and picking people's pockets."

Baird said the government has put in place a rebate system to protect consumers.

Conway also criticized the long delays and huge cost of bringing the Pickering A nuclear reactor fully back into service.

Already years behind schedule and hundreds of millions of dollars overbudget, OPG said in its report it would return service to one of four units at the plant sometime next year.

It would then assess the cost and schedule of getting the others back on line.

Baird said it was "wise" of the company to wait and see what happens with the first reactor, but Conway warned that the province already faces potential energy shortages leading to further price hikes.

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