Skip to content

Rule out using power limiters until April, Nunakput MLA tells Archie

Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson tables four news releases in an effort to outlaw the use of power limiters in the NWT, in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday. GNWT image

Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson is exploring making the use of power load limiters illegal in the Northwest Territories.

He said in the legislature Thursday that the Oct. 21 announcement that load limiters would be used as the NWT Power Corporation (NTPC) tries to collect some of the $2 million in outstanding fees owed by ratepayers represents a reversal in policy announced earlier this year. The NTPC said it would not use the limiters, which limit the level of energy available to just enough to run essential appliances including heaters until the account is brought out of arrears, during the Covid-19 pandemic.

They're normally used if an account is more than 28 days overdue. Jacobson criticized the decision to resume using limiters on Nov. 9 with the winter closing in: he said the temperature was "26 below" in his constituency as he spoke.

He accused Infrastructure Minister Diane Archie, who took over the portfolio in the cabinet shuffle that followed Great Slave MLA Katrina Nokleby's removal from the executive council at the end of August, of "saying one thing and doing the other.

Diane Archie, minister responsible for the NWT Power Corporation explains that the corporation has no plans to stop using power limiters for residents who can't pay their bills in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday. GNWT image

"Why is the government doing that?" he asked.

"Did I miss something? Has the pandemic ended? The timing is off. Right when the cold weather is setting in. Was this announcement in March a public relations stunt, because we don't sell too much power in the summer months?"

"The GNWT has to step up and end this inhumane practice of using power limiters. They say the use of load limiters is standard practice in Canada, I say it doesn't make it okay. This is the North (with) a harsh reality, a different climate. It's -26 back home now."

Jacobson explained that power limiters risk cutting off the heat for community members already facing high living costs in the winter, and the intermittent power supply makes cooking meals inconvenient.

He also pointed out that if the GNWT can provide $9.3 million in Covid-related assistance for Canadian North then it should be able to help out residents in the winter months with $2 million in overdue power bills.

"What's the financial situation of the NTPC?" he asked "The power corporation as a financial institution ... is aggressively collecting while we're in a pandemic. Why?"

Archie responded that she wouldn't characterize NTPC collection activities as "aggressive," and explained that the corporation is encouraging customers to enter into re-payment plans to balance their accounts.

"If they honour their plan they won't be charged interest nor will they have limiters installed," she said. "The reality is that accounts receivable owed to NTPC by our customers are up almost 450 per cent since we temporarily suspended collection activities in March. If we let client debts continue to accumulate we're setting our residents up for failure down the road."

The minister said the NTPC will continue using limiters, adding that she doesn't like them "but allowing debt to increase until (clients) have no chance at all of repayment and end up getting their power cut off for good just doesn't make any sense."

"Limiters protect the person's house and provide just enough power to run the furnace and rotate use of other appliances," she said.

Jacobson asked if Archie was willing to stop using limiters from November until April and said that if she isn't, he would bring in a motion to make limiters illegal in the NWT.

In Archie's final word on the matter, she said there are financial assistance programs available for residents, such as income support through the Department of Education, Culture and Employment and one-time payments from the NWT Housing Corporation.

Later on in the session, when documents were tabled, Jacobson tabled four media releases as part of his effort to outlaw limiters. Two were from March on the NTPC announcing it would stop using limiters, and two from October when the corporation said it would resume collections and using limiters.