Erin Power sat with her son on her lap in the darkened kitchen of her St. John’s home on Canada Day.
She turned the power off to protest the 6.6 per cent Newfoundland Power rate hike that went into effect July 1.
There was no humming of electricity. Only the little bit of sun shining through the kitchen window lit her face as she spoke.
“I’m a single mom,” she said. “Keeping things up is already a challenge with the current rates on electricity. So, it will definitely affect my family to have a bigger electricity bill every month.”
Electricity rates are expected to double by the time Muskrat Falls comes online in a couple of years. With the announcement of the most recent rate hike, people across the province decided to take action in the form of the #MakeNLDarkAgain protest.
Organizers Keith Fillier of Clarenville and James Murphy of Bay Roberts said the concept is simple: they asked that everyone turn their power off from noon until 4 p.m. on Sunday.
Fillier said the protest was a way to let decision-makers know that people are unified against the increases.
“You can tell from the posts, of people posting pictures of themselves and their families turning off breakers, you can see the looks in people’s faces – you can tell that they feel like they’re making a difference,” said Fillier. “That’s their stand against the way things have been going. Obviously, there’s a lot of people unhappy about the direction we’re headed.”
As of deadline, Fillier said they were still looking into the numbers to see what sort of specific impact the protest had, but it exceeded their expectations in terms of the public response.
He said from what he’s noticed on his own personal social media accounts, thousands of people participated in the protest.
Power said she hopes enough people took part to make a difference.
“I’m a single mom. Keeping things up is already a challenge with the current rates on electricity. So, it will definitely affect my family to have a bigger electricity bill every month.”
Still, she’s planning to attend future protests that people are talking about, such as a rally at the Confederation Building and talks of a protest outside the Newfoundland Power building, neither of which have confirmed dates yet.
Power said all of her friends and family participated in the #MakeNLDarkAgain protest on Sunday and she hopes that people will step up for other protests, too.
“We have such a small population, it’s so important for everyone to stand up and make themselves heard.”
“It’s important that we stand together. There are a lot of people saying it won’t make a difference, but those are the people that perpetuate that mentality because the more people who say, ‘OK, yeah, an individual can make a difference,’ then collectively that individual becomes a mass.”
If the protests fall on deaf ears and electricity rates double, she said she’s not sure what she’ll do — she simply figures it will encourage young people such as her son to someday leave the province.
It’s those kinds of decisions that Fillier hopes the protests will prevent. He hopes the protests help make the province a more affordable place to live.
“Newfoundlanders have a strong affiliation with their home,” he said. “When people talk about leaving Newfoundland, there’s a big reason that makes them do that — it means they’ve got no choice.”