Indigenous leaders throughout Manitoba welcomed news this week that a new rate class would be created for hydro customers living on reserve.
Manitoba is the first to implement a separate rate for First Nation communities.
Those in this classification will be exempt from the 3.6 per cent rate hike facing others in the province this year.
“This decision recognizes the hardship faced by so many First Nations living on reserve,” said Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas. “They see hydro dams on their territory, generating revenue and electricity for Manitoba while leaving only devastation and unaffordable bills behind.”
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs had long implored the Public Utilities Board (PUB), which regulates utility fees in Manitoba, to find a way to protect First Nations customers, pointing out that building codes don’t apply on-reserve making way for shoddily-built homes with massive heating bills.
Only two of 63 Manitoba First Nations have access to natural gas as an alternative heating source.
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) represents northern chiefs, also applauded the creation of the First Nation On-Reserve Residential Customer Class.
“In many cases, northern families must choose between putting food on the table and paying their hydro bills, “ said MKO Grand Chief Sheila North. “It seems logical that hydro would acknowledge the positive contributions that our communities have made as well as the negative consequences they have experienced due to hydro development.”
The PUB also said Tuesday the Manitoba government should develop bill-affordability programs to help lower-income hydro customers and recommended a portion of the province’s revenue collected from a northern generating station should fund that program.
The Manitoba government has said it will look at that recommendation.