To allay business sector fears and instill a sense of all-round political, economic, social stability in the province, many years ago the provincial government of the day engaged in a publicity campaign to attract investors to the province by [re-] assuring them that Quebec was a good place to do business. This at a time of rising nationalism and a clarion call for “a country” among a certain small, but difficult to ignore constituency.
As I recall, the slogan of the campaign was “Quebec sait faire.” “Quebec Knows How.” I never found out how to do what; maybe there was a subtle message been transmitted. Whether the campaign was successful or not I don’t know, or ever bothered to find out. But along the way, many things have happened in the province—for better or worse—that could be interpreted as Quebec’s living up to the old slogan. One that most people say readily comes to mind is the revenue arm of the government taxing the hell out of taxpayers.
Like most people residing in the province my interest has always been to make an honest living… as difficult as that continues to be in a province where for a few generations now nationalism and language discussions have become the most important and thrashed out subjects in the media; the economy is always a distant third. Or is it “just my imagination…? But in the world of pragmatism (where practical people exist) bread, butter, jam, milk, potato, paying the bills… commodity matters, are all that matter. Buying and paying them in a timely manner are always at, or near, the top of everyone’s agenda.
But there are times when people become a little – or very – exasperated whenever they feel like the state and/or private industries are extracting a little too much (say more than necessary) from their domestic budgets. In fact it’s how many people have been feeling seems like forever about that state concern, Hydro Quebec, which for years has been using functional meters, which consumers had no problems with.
Then about two years ago the state-owned utility, the government’s electric cash cow, came up with a smart idea to introduce so-called “Smart” meters to make all things Hydro more convenient and efficient (providing more accurate readings of user consumption is Hydro’s talking point) for customers. In some cases going so far as to say the Smart meters will even translate in lower bills? If you’re one, then you know the things have been fraught with controversy: health concerns, inflated bills (over-billing, one customer complained about receiving a 5-digit bill). And the complaints continue, as the utility bill gets higher.
For its annual rate increase/demand, you know by now that Hydro received permission to increase our rates by 2.9 percent, effective April 1. [I always wonder why the energy giant chooses April Fool’s Day to start factoring in the new money it would be receiving. A new fiscal period perhaps?] Check your bill.
Pay attention, there’re ongoing discussions between Ontario’s electric producer, Hydro 1 and Hydro Quebec. I smell something unpleasant. Someone said it smells like privatization, a route Ontario is pondering, Hydro Quebec? Clean your ears out. Read an Online article on Equiterre.
There’s a word, sophistry (sophism), which came to mind as I recently read that long article, and then one in that free handout newspaper available to commuters at metro stations, 24H (24 HEURES). It’s a bit disturbing.
Entitled ‘Les clients privés de 160M $ de trop-perçus [Customers deprived of $160M]. As a French-speaking colleague of mine explains, the headline and article essentially examines how, since 2008, Hydro customers have been over-billed (cheated, ripped off, bilked, milked…) by the energy powerhouse to the tune of $160,000,000.
Written by Marc-Olivier Moisan-Plante, an economist with the Union des consommateurs, the article illustrates (in numbers, read it Online) how those years of bills multiplied by 3.8 million Hydro Quebec customers have added up to stupendous profits, especially last fiscal year. Come next year expect the energy giant to announce even bigger — perhaps record — profits surpassing 2014’s.
Moisan-Plante goes on to make reference to that other energy provider Gaz Métropolitan. He says when Gaz Met made profits surpassing those it declared, it was forced by the Régie de l’énergie [the government] to give rebates to its customers.
As far as Hydro Quebec goes, he says, “[…] the $160 million will never be returned to its customers…”
So what’s the point of all this? As consumers, we’re at the mercy of those who produce goods and services. Not even the government, ostensibly the body of people we elect to safeguard our collective well-being, and the various levels of fonctionaires “give a damn…” someone remarked in a radio conversation the other day. All of which only helps to nourish and perpetuate the people’s belief that “corruption is embedded from top to bottom.” That’s what a history teacher told me about ten years ago.