Consumers – especially the elderly – say they can’t keep up with natural gas prices as Enbridge seeks to increase

Lynda McCarthy is sitting in her backyard, carefully looking through her carefully curated Enbridge Gas bills.

Living on a fixed income with her husband in Newcastle, Ontario, a small community in the Durham area east of Toronto, this 73-year-old keeps a close eye on expenses and sticks to a strict budget.

“It was a total shock when I get my bill for Enbridge,” she said.

That bill went up by $55 a month after Enbridge secured the Ontario Energy Board’s approval of an 18 to 23 percent price increase that took effect July 1.

“I thought there must be something wrong here. I called Enbridge. No, there was nothing wrong,” said McCarthy, who moved with her husband to a smaller house to cut costs.

“You feel safe, you have a good budget and you’re managing, and suddenly there’s all this extra expense.”

Not in a small amount

Enbridge Gas says the war in Ukraine combined with increased global demand is driving natural gas prices to historically high levels. Which the company says it expects to continue for some time to come. That’s why, says Enbridge, it’s asking for another increase, which if approved would start Oct.

said Warren Mabe, assistant professor of geography and director of the Queen’s University Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy.

“It’s not something I think people will ignore.”

McCarthy says she was shocked to receive the bill and thought it was a mistake until Enbridge told her otherwise. (Provided by Linda McCarthy)

He said that although Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused unpredictability in markets, fluctuations in the industry are predictable as Canada moves toward eliminating fossil fuels in an effort to cut greenhouse gases.

“I think governments need to pay more attention to that, we need to make this as seamless as possible for people as they go through the transition,” Mabe said.

Peter Tabons, interim leader of the Ontario National Democratic Party and energy critic, said he’s heard from voters about rising natural gas prices as well as other increases in the cost of living. He said the Ontario government should force Enbridge to do more to help consumers.

“The government could direct Enbridge to allocate a lot of money to energy-saving programs to help customers,” Tabons said.

“They should look very seriously now at a relief program for especially low-income consumers who will have the toughest times to make sure they can eat and stay warm during this winter.”

Enbridge price relief plan

In a statement to CBC Toronto, the Ontario Department of Energy said the government asked both the Energy Board of Ontario and Enbridge Gas last winter to “use all tools at their disposal to mitigate the impact of rising global energy prices on Ontarians.”

When the Ontario Energy Board approved natural gas prices in July, it also included a price easing plan proposed by Enbridge that protects customers from the full impact of rising global prices, according to a ministry statement.

Enbridge offers incentives to make homes more energy efficient, such as upgrading to insulation, air sealing, and new water heaters and windows.

Low-income families can also apply for some relief through the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program.

In a statement to CBC News, Enbridge said it mitigated market price impacts for customers by postponing part of the natural gas market price increases in October 2021, January 2022, April 2022 and July 2022 quarterly price adjustments.

But that doesn’t ease the concern for McCarthy, who will pay an extra $600 this year on her natural gas bill.

“I think we might be in trouble in the future, there are only two of us gray-haired seniors,” she said.