MLA wants to make power limiters illegal in the winter

Jackie Jacobson says the use of power limiters is “inhumane” during the winter months.  

Jackie Jacobson is the MLA for Nunakput. (File photo/CKLB)

On Nov. 9, the Northwest Territories Power Corporation will start using power limiters again on residents that can’t pay their bills.

The corporation made the announcement earlier this month, reversing a decision from earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reversal caught the attention of Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson, who represents the northernmost communities in the NWT.

Yesterday, Jacobson asked Diane Archie, the minister in charge of NTPC, to not use power limiters for the winter, calling the practice “inhumane”.

“Life is hard and expensive in our small communities and a lack of heat, life-threatening. People have their power throttled, and they don’t know when the power will be turned off. This makes it impossible for a family to heat their homes properly and feed and care for their families,” he said.

Jacobson said he was told that the use of load-limiting devices is standard across the country.

“I say that it doesn’t make it okay. This is the North, a harsh reality, a different climate, and other parts of Canada are a lot warmer than where we’re from.

Minister Archie defended the use of limiters, saying it’s to prevent residents from getting into insurmountable debt.

“I don’t like the use of limiters, but just allowing a debt to increase to a point where customers have no chance at all for repayment ends up getting their power cut off for good,” she said.

Archie said NTPC’s accounts receivable total went up 450 per cent since stopping the use of limiters and other “collection activities” in March. This is not true.

Doug Prendergast is the corporations spokesperson. He said NTPC was owed about $576,000 on Mar. 1, 2020 and on Oct. 1, that amount was just over $2 million.

Prendergast said the 450 per cent increase is year-over-year results comparing October 2019 to October 2020.

Archie added that residents can enter into a repayment plan to avoid paying interest and will not have limiters installed at their home.

That was not good enough for Jacobson.

“I am going to remind the minister that we are in a pandemic. We have no jobs. People are living off income support, making the decisions either to buy food or pay your power or pay your rent,” he said.

He added that unless the government instructs NTPC to reverse course, he would be introducing a motion that would prevent the use of limiters during the winter.

Updated Oct. 30, 6 p.m. with additional accounts receivable information from Doug Prendergast.

About the Author

Francis Tessier-Burns
Francis was a reporter with CKLB from January 2019 to March 2023. In his time with CKLB, he had the immense pleasure and honour of learning about northern Indigenous cultures.