UCP MLAs rejected an NDP proposal to ban cutting off utilities to Albertans for a full year Wednesday.
Alberta already has regulations that prevent essential utilities from being fully disconnected between Oct. 15 and April 15 but a draft bill offered up by the NDP Opposition, and put forward with a motion Wednesday, would have created a one-time expansion through the spring and summer, preventing utilities from being shut off until next April.
The motion did not receive the unanimous consent it needed in the legislature to move forward.
The Opposition said the protection is required as costs go up and more Albertans fall behind on their soaring energy bills, but electricity and natural gas associate minister Dale Nally called it unnecessary, pointing to support programs for low-income seniors and Albertans.
“The utilities have made it clear to me that if Albertans are working with them, they will then in return work back with them and they will come out with reasonable programs that will allow them to continue to pay their bill and to keep their lights and their power on,” said Nally in the legislature, encouraging Albertans to contact their utility companies.
At a news conference Tuesday, NDP energy critic Kathleen Ganley said she thought the draft legislation could be passed in a day if it had government support.
“Albertans have already been through so much over the past two years. Between the COVID-19 pandemic and now the rising cost of living, it would be heartless to disconnect Albertans just trying to get by and keep a roof over their heads,” Ganley said.
The UCP government has responded to growing utility bills by promising a $150 rebate as soon as they can get the details worked out with the province’s power companies. Ganley called that plan “insulting,” considering how high bills have become.
The Opposition has called on the government to increase the size of the rebate or reinstate the cap on utility prices that was in place when the NDP was in power.