FOR HYDRO, LIVING BETTER ELECTRICALLY IS CHEATING
I told you so about Hydro so many years ago that glass fuses were more common than circuit breakers and the great salvation of power bars hadn't yet been invented.
I told you so before the last three provincial elections. These Liberals couldn't wire a doghouse if they had a million dollars to waste. And they certainly couldn't guarantee uninterrupted service.
I have listened to the tidal waves of indignation about meter gouging and fat salaries and incompetence and shouted out to anyone who pretended to listen that Ontario Hydro blew every fuse it had in common sense and proper business behaviour about three decades ago and there have been many commentators and columnists beside me who noticed.
Yet people tuned us out.
I let out a sick chuckle yesterday when I opened Hydro One's two bills for my cottage and the bunkie. The bunkie is used only several weekends a year. I use the cottage about a third of the time from May to October.
The bills were for the period from Dec. 23, 2016, to March 25, 2017. No electricity was used. Yet the delivery of electricity cost me $112.66 on each bill, the regulatory charge was .75 cents on each bill, the HST was $14.75 on each bill, and the grand provincial rebate on each bill was $8.26.
So in the dead of winter when my cottages and thousands like it were not used, I paid $239.84.
Ironically, I felt almost lucky. Six years ago, when starting on a cruel April Fool's Day I spent three months in four hospitals, the Hydro bills for the unused cottages were much higher.
Some city folk not used to the problems of cottage country may wonder why I just didn't put Hydro on a seasonal hold as you have been able to do for years with your phone and cable. Nope, Hydro won't allow what other "public" providers routinely permit.
Some might also wonder why I just didn't scrap the second meter and run all the power from the main cottage. A good idea except local contractors and the incestuous bureaucratese who support them make this an expensive tedious operation.
Once upon a time, cottagers used to get a break on seasonal use but Hydro grabbed it away without explanation or even a lame excuse.
One problem is you never actually know how much power you are really using because you can never trust the readings from the so-called smart meters. Mine are so stupid that I have paid for the empty bunkie three times what I paid for the main cottage which was all we were using while I recovered from my hospital hell.
The Internet is filled with examples of cheating Hydro meters. There are also many suggestions that they are a health hazard. I have never believed that but I have a thick file filled with examples of exorbitant charges. The north and cottage country have more horror stories about Hydro than they have residents.
Last year I paid $1,237.62 for the power I used in Etobicoke. I paid $2,040.83 for the Hydro at the cottage. Something smells!
Fifty years ago when I entered Toronto journalism as a nervous cub reporter, the best Christmas party in town was thrown for the press by Ontario Hydro. We all got a gift, like warming plates or a big turkey. The booze flowed and the shrimps were like baby lobsters.
We were a rowdy lot, throwing buns at the Hydro chairman who officiated. So next year there was only sliced bread. So we sailed the slices at his head. He laughed, because he had to keep the three papers happy (TV and radio didn't matter yet).
Gradually the media stirred itself into throwing tough questions and not just buns and bread. The coverage grew ever more critical. It didn't help Hydro that former employees never managed to hide the fact that expenses there didn't matter a damn.
I had a secretary who wanted a new typewriter (yes this did happen back in the mists) and when I told her the typewriter she already had was the top of the line, she said that when she had worked for Hydro she got a new typewriter every few years without question.
I have never forgotten. When my stockbroker told me that Hydro One was selling some stock and it looked like a golden opportunity, I said I would never invest in a company that I considered to be sloppy in its spending, efficiency and corporate morality.
But as I began this column saying, I have said this all before. And so have others.
On April 7, 2016, my blog in johndowning.ca was headlined Hydro One Cheating. On April 25, 2015, my blog was Stupid Toronto Utility Billing. On April 14, 2014, the blog was headlined Let's Give Liberals The Electric Chair. On April 18, 18, 2014, it was Blowing Ontario's Fuses. On Feb. 24, 2014, my blog headline was Hydro's Cheating Meters.
And before that Hydro was a regular target in four decades of thousands of my columns and editorials in the Toronto Sun.
You can't say you weren't warned.