A tearful Ontario grandmother feeling crushed by the cost of her hydro bill asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a town hall Friday to justify putting a federal price on carbon.
The woman, identified by CBC News as Kathy Katula of Buckhorn, Ont., sparked applause by sharing her struggle to make ends meet at a gathering in Peterborough. The prime minister, who is on a grassroots tour across the country, later embraced Katula.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with an emotional Kathy Katula following a news conference in Peterborough, Ont. on Jan. 13. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)
“My heat and hydro now cost me more than my mortgage. I now not only work 75 hours a week, I stay and work 15 hours a day just so I don’t lose my home,” she told Trudeau, adding that she wears a leg brace and has epilepsy.
Katula claimed her hydro bill has reached as high as $1,085. She did not state if that figure represented a monthly total or several months, but said she's in "energy poverty."
“How do you justify to a mother of four children, three grandchildren, physical disabilities, and working up to 15 hours a day…. How is it justified for you to ask me to pay a carbon tax when I only have $65 left of my paycheque every two weeks to feed my family?” she asked.
Trudeau lauded her strength and determination, suggesting it’s unfair she wasn’t able to focus instead on how best to spoil her grandkids.
Watch the entire exchange from Global News:
The prime minister said that while hydro rates are a provincial matter, he understands his government’s plans to price carbon is causing “consternation” among some Canadians.
As the world transitions away from fossil fuels, he said, it is important that those already feeling stretched “beyond the breaking limit” aren’t penalized.
He noted that his government’s plan does not kick in until 2018. If provinces or territories do not implement either a cap-and-trade or carbon tax by that time, the federal government will impose a carbon price in that jurisdiction of $10 per tonne, rising to $50 per tonne in 2022.
Any revenues generated will be given back to those provinces or territories.
'We need to make this transition'
“We are not taking any money outside of the jurisdictions that pay those carbon taxes so it will be up the government of Ontario to ensure that you are not penalized,” Trudeau said, adding he trusts all provinces to be responsible.
But Trudeau said the world needs to get off of fossil fuels.
“We need to make this transition,” he said.
But sky-high hydro rates have taken a toll on residents in Canada’s most populous province, particularly in rural communities, as Ontario phased out burning coal to generate electricity.
Ontario’s auditor general has said the electricity portion of hydro bills for homes and small businesses spiked 70 per cent between 2006 and 2014.
With files from The Canadian Press