Christmas money goes to pay power bill

SUMMERSIDE, PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND - A Summerside, PEI, man has stepped in to make a payment on his daughter's electricity bill so his grandchildren won't spend the holidays in the dark.

Paul Williams is putting $150 down on the Summerside Electric bill, but it will mean no presents from him for his daughter Charlene Gunning, his 16-year-old granddaughter, or his seven-year-old grandson.

Gunning admits she ignored the electric bill, thinking the utility wouldn't cut her off in the cold weather.

"You're taking advantage of them in a way," she said.

"It's not like I was throwing my money somewhere else. Like I was trying. What happens is you get one bill caught up, and then another one falls behind and I'm not the only one that's in this kind of situation."

Gunning gets $1,100 a month from welfare and from family allowance combined. Social Services covers her oil bill and part of her rent but she's responsible for food, clothing and the electric bill. She is also paying for satellite TV service.

Gunning admits she hasn't paid anything on the power bill in three months, and then she received a disturbing call from Summerside Electric.

"I got a call this morning, and they told me they'd disconnect me if I didn't pay just about $500 up front today," she said.

Summerside Electric spokesman Malcolm Miller said many customers think a utility can't cut them off in winter.

"In the middle of the winter, it's not a whole lot different than during the rest of the year," said Miller.

"It's usually only when they completely ignore our requests to get some sort of reasonable payment term that we'd turn them off."

Utilities can also put on a load limiter on customers that only supplies power to essentials, such as the furnace and the fridge.

Gunning said her priority now is paying off the electric bill, even if it means pulling the plug on her satellite TV service.


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