BY LINDSAY BRISCOE
The group of protesters that gathered along Hwy. 105 in Red Lake last Friday was as diverse as they get: young parents, retired men and women, singles, elderly, and even some children.
Their message was the same, though, and rang loud and clear: “Fight the Power.” “No to Hydro.”
Melissa McKenzie-Marcellais, who was present that day, says even in her two-income household, the price of hydro is putting financial pressure on her family.
“It affects me personally because we’re both working and still we can’t afford the increasing hydro rates,” she said. “You know, with a mortgage, there’s just not a lot left over to save.”
She also knows a number of people in the area living on fixed incomes. For them, it’s just about scraping by, she says.
“It’s even harder for them because they live in social housing where – OK the rent is subsidized – but they have to pay for their heat and hydro. Well, those are some of the most expensive things to pay for so although their rent might be subsidized at $200 or $300 a month, they’re still paying $1,200 hydro bills. And most of the social housing units in Red Lake are run on electric baseboard heat,” she says.
“These are the people who are already on a budget that’s very minimal, they’re not even getting the option of heat or eat. They’re going without for both.”
One protestor, who said her family is living on her husband’s disability cheques, said she just can’t afford it and said she is one of the people who finds herself having to cut back on other essentials in order to be able to keep up with her monthly bills.
Another protestor said she had just moved into a newly constructed house with sound windows and insulation and she and her partner were paying upwards of $1,200 a month on hydro.
PULL QUOTE: You can’t give into cynicism because it just reinforces the status quo. -MPP Sarah Campbell
Kenora-Rainy River MPP Sarah Campbell came out to show her support, especially since it was the first hydro protest in the Red Lake area. She said protest action is one of the best ways to apply pressure to the provincial government.
“I want people to know that their voices are heard,” she said. “They’re, first of all, heard from me, and I will be passing on their concerns to the Ontario government to make sure that we have some movement on this important issue.”
“Even when people feel discouraged and disenchanted, you can’t give into cynicism because it just reinforces the status quo,” she added. “We may not get the change we want right now but it’s so important that we get out and we keep on it, that we stay committed because change will happen but only if we’re vocal and force the government to make it a priority.”
She also pointed out that the province-wide protest against hydro was started in our own backyard.
“You know what’s really exciting about this whole hydro movement is that it started three years ago by two moms in Dryden. They were two people that maybe didn’t necessarily fully know about the system and the impact that getting together and raising awareness on this issue has, but fast forward three and half years later and we have a province-wide protest.”