You think life is hard now?

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

You think your life is hard now?

Just wait until next year.

If the Qulliq Energy Corp., now the proud parent of the Nunavut Power Corp., gets its way next year, you’ll start paying a lot more to eat, travel and keep warm in the winter.

Depending on where you live, your food bills could go up by as much as 20 per cent. You’ll pay more to travel by air. If you’re a tenant in a privately-owned building, you’ll pay more for rent when your lease is renegotiated.

If you live in Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet, Igloolik, Panniqtuuq, Cambridge Bay, or Baker Lake, you will pay the biggest price increases of all.

The Government of Nunavut, which subsidizes nearly everyone in the territory to some extent, will pay more too. That means they’ll have less money to spend on all the other things you want the government to do for you.

So dream on. The government won’t do those things for you, because they will be spending more money than ever before on power bills – their power bills and your power bills.

The power corporation, as everyone knows, needs more money every year. If they don’t get it, they’ll eventually go into some form of bankruptcy. To get that money, they studied ways of making their customers pay for electricity.

But they are recommending only one method. And that method is to gouge the greatest chunks of cash out of the communities that contain the largest numbers of paying customers. That method will also gouge the greatest chunks of cash out of the communities that contain the largest numbers of private businesses – whose electrical power bills are not subsidized by the territorial government.

So next year, if you live in Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet, Igloolik, Panniqtuuq, Cambridge Bay, or Baker Lake, you will pay those power bills yourself, every time you go to the store to buy Enfalac, Pampers, pork chops or pilot biscuits.

At the same time, small numbers of people in small communities like Whale Cove, Grise Fiord and Kugaaruk will see their power bills go down. That’s because, if you live in a big community, you will be subsiding the enormous costs of generating power in those small places. This is how the power corporation’s one-price-fits-all rate system will actually work.

This rate system pretends to be fair, but it is not. It imposes a hidden tax on Nunavut’s businesses and homeowners, most of whom are located in the larger communities. This hidden tax will strangle all real economic development in Nunavut, especially the private sector growth that the Nunavut government claims to support.

It will also impose enormous new costs upon the government. For example:

* The social assistance food allowance. Under the GN’s miserly social assistance program, a single person on welfare, living in either Iqaluit, Arviat, Kugluktuk, Panniqtuuq, Qikiqtarjuaq and Rankin Inlet gets $285 a month to buy food, less than what the average professional meeting-goer gets as a single day’s honorarium.

But when the price of food rises in those communities because of higher power rates, the territorial government will be forced to raise these food allowances dramatically. If not, hungry welfare recipients will soon be climbing into your windows late at night to steal what they can’t afford to buy.

* Social housing tenants. About 50 per cent of Nunavut residents live in social housing – and pay only a tiny portion of their real power bills. The territorial government pays the rest. Because of the dramatic rise in residential power bills in places like Iqaluit and Rankin Inlet, the government will soon be paying much more.
* Northern allowance payments. Nunavut government employees all get northern allowance payments based on the cost of living in the communities where they live. When higher power rates change the cost of living in communities like Iqaluit and Rankin, all those northern allowances will have to be recalculated, and the government will pay many millions of dollars more every year.

There is no evidence that the GN is aware of the damage that the NPC’s territorial rates will inflict on private businesses. There is no evidence that the GN is aware of the hardships that higher food prices will inflict on ordinary people. And even if they are aware, there is no evidence that they are capable of analyzing the situation and acting in a sensible manner.

The power corporation is doing all this within a territory where most things are run by ignorant, incompetent drudges, from the GN on down. Just look at the pathetic reaction of Iqaluit City Council, in a community where commercial power bills would rise by 92 per cent, and where residential power bills would rise by 59.2 per cent. Nearly four weeks after the power corporation released and distributed its proposal – and posted it on the Internet – most councillors claim not to be aware of what’s going on.

Given that kind of willful stupidity, you can’t blame the power corporation for thinking they can get away with it. JB

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