If I did my job as poorly as Newfoundland Power (NP) does, I would expect to be fired.
But, then again, I don’t have the exclusive monopoly rights that it has, so there is significantly more motivation for me not to find myself in such a pickle.
Forgive me for sounding cranky but after having no electricity at my home in the centre of St. John’s for over 44 hours (a condition shared by several other neighbours and the entire Newfoundland and Labrador Housing complex behind me), while others on the street had theirs 24 hours ago and all the commercial enterprises around us are open, you may feel inclined to forgive me.
According to NP, we are unfortunately one of those “isolated pockets” that are not given the priority that larger outages attract.
Now, I wouldn’t mind if this only happened every now and then, but every time we get a storm outage, we have to go through this.
It seems that if someone breaks wind on Cowan Avenue “the system” breaks down and we have to forgo basic creature comforts for hours or days at a time.
Last evening after midnight, my neighbour started his car intermittently and turned on the heat in order to stay warm.
The lady who was alone up the street put on her winter parka and slept under as many blankets as she could find, while two doors up the lights were blazing. I was forced to forgo the use of an electrically driven medical device that I need while sleeping.
Meanwhile, the Christmas lights are burning brightly in some houses across and further up the street and you can almost smell the burgers cooking at the McDonald’s and Burger King restaurants just down the road.
Recently, during Igor, our sump pump didn’t work due to no electricity and we had a foot of water come into our fully finished basement that cost in excess of $10,000 to repair.
I am sure that my situation is not unique and that there are far greater instances of inconvenience and trauma to be told.
But why is this allowed to happen in this day and age?
Has the magnitude of fall and winter storms increased from 20-30 years ago when it seems like we didn't have near so many outages?
Has engineering technology stepped backward?
Or should Fortis, who owns NP and runs a similar enterprise in Central America, be called to task for not doing its job?
Aren’t there performance clauses in their monopoly contract or are they operating here like they might in some banana republic?
How come people are putting up with this and not marching in the streets?
Fortis and NP should be ashamed of themselves.
However, when was the last time you heard the CEO of Fortis or a senior official of either company make a public apology for their poor service standard? Having not been able to get in touch with NP by telephone, I actually went to two of their locations here in St. John’s to find out what was going on. While it was obvious that there were personnel inside, all the doors were locked shut.
This, of course, added insult to injury. These recent experiences with NP and Nalcor (the latter couldn’t get the electricity to NP to distribute) doesn’t give me much confidence that when Muskrat Falls is up and running they will effectively transmit its power across the wilds of Labrador, not to mention the Great Northern Peninsula, when evidently they cannot deliver it from either Bay D’Espoir or Holyrood.
Most modern companies try to create an environment whereby it can attract and maintain a high-calibre workforce.
Of course, the reputation of the company is a big part of achieving this intention.
Given NP’s dismal record for the last several years, I could understand how some employees might be less than proud to work there. And now Newfoundland Power wants a rate increase of seven per cent or more! The mind boggles!
Obviously they are listening more to their shareholders than to their customers. Basic child psychology suggests we should not reinforce bad behaviour. I hope the PUB, when reviewing NP’s rate increase application, agrees.
Tom Hawco writes from St. John’s.