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EDITORIAL: Winter Hydro woes

We'd like to say it's simple — pay or get cut off — but it's not that cut and dried for some people in Parksville Qualicum Beach

As the temperature continues to drop, we receive some visits and calls from people who say they are sitting in the cold.

With an elderly mother. And a baby. And no heat because they say BC Hydro has cut them off.

We call BC Hydro. Or at least one of their media spokespeople, who shall remain nameless here because, well, we've seen some pretty vitriolic stuff targeted at BC Hydro in the past year and this person doesn't set policy.

Speaking of policy, we are told BC Hydro won't cut people off when the temperature dips below the freezing mark. Or right around Christmas. Or if some kind of arrangement can be made.

"The last thing we want to do is cut people off," said the spokesperson. "We try to accommodate people as much as we can. If they let us know it's a hardship (case), we can work something out. We may be a company but we're still people."

What about the people who get behind in their bill payments in, say, August, were given a bunch of notices and eventually had their power cut off in October? Now that's it's below zero, they're out of luck? Apparently so.

There's no shortage of people who want to tell you about what they perceive to be BC Hydro's unfair monopoly. And that may very well be a fair argument. Smart meters? Well this piece isn't about that lightning-rod issue.

Unfair rates and monopoly or not, BC Hydro charges for a service, a commodity, power. You pay for the service, you get the commodity. It's the same for cable or Internet or gas, isn't it?

Perhaps not. Especially if we're talking about kids and old ladies freezing to death. You won't die if you can't hook up to the Internet

It's a tough issue. The BC Hydro spokesperson suggests those in dire need can work through social services to ensure they have power. The spokesperson even suggested going to your local MLA if things aren't resolved.

We'd like to say it's a simple, cut-and-dried issue: pay your bill, get the service. It's just not that simple for many people in our region.

— Editorial by John Harding