Manitoba faces record natural gas hike

CBC Newsworld
January 5, 2001

Click here to watch Newsworld’s Mark Kelley speak with Tom Adams, Executive Director of Energy Probe, about rising heating costs. (Click here for RealPlayer)

With winter barely underway, some people on the Prairies have been blasted with a bitterly harsh lesson in the economics of heating their homes.

Centra Gas, a division of Manitoba Hydro, has applied to raise its rates by 32 per cent the single largest increase of its type in the province’s history.

If the Public Utilities Board approves the request, the average homeowner will pay about $350 more per year.

“That’s insane,” says one woman, whose gas bill has already doubled in the past month because of a cold spell as well as a recent, smaller rate hike.

“‘Wow!’ was my reaction when I saw the hike,” says Gloria Desorcy of the Consumers Association of Canada.

“It’s a really large amount of money for many consumers,” she adds. “Most consumers are going to find this tough I think.”

In particular, seniors and others on fixed incomes are expected to be hit hard. “Does it mean that people are going to have to move out of their homes, move out of their apartments?” asks Gerri Hewitt of the Manitoba Society of Seniors.

“Yes, that could happen,” she says. “But it’s a problem that isn’t only here in Manitoba.”

Homeowners and tenants aren’t the only ones facing much bigger gas bills. Large industrial companies can expect an increase between 33 and 48 per cent, which could drive up the price of some goods.

Manitoba Hydro says soaring gas prices have forced it to raise its rates.

Bob Brennan, president of Manitoba Hydro, says the cost of natural gas has tripled over the past 15 months.

He says other reasons for the price hike include:

  • a colder winter
  • an increase in shipping gas from Alberta to the U.S.
  • and a higher demand for natural gas throughout North America.

The utilities board will look at the application this month. If approved, the increase goes into effect on Feb. 1.

Centra Gas plans to apply for another increase of about two per cent this spring.

Last month, gas suppliers in some other parts of Canada applied for similar increases. B.C. Gas requested a 30 per cent hike, while Alberta’s ATCO asked for a 70 per cent increase.

 

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