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Added: Wed, 02/12/2020 - 7:27pm
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Allyson Beauregard
Rédacteur / Managing Editor
editor@journalpontiac.com

Hydro-Québec (Hydro), a government-owned public utility established in 1944, will be forking out $535 million to customers who held accounts in 2018 or 2019 following the adoption of Bill 34 this past December.
Commercial, industrial and residential customers will either see a credit on their bills or be mailed a cheque in the coming weeks, amounting to about $60 for the average household.
When the CAQ government first introduced the bill in June 2019, they said Hydro earned more than the Régie de l'énergie authorized in recent years and pledged to reimburse $1.5 billion to customers. They reduced this to $535 million in the months to come, stating the rest will be invested in programs like reducing daycare rates and school taxes, and increasing family benefits.
Around the same time the upcoming reimbursement was officially announced, thousands of Pontiac residents went without electricity for several days because of heavy snow and rain on December 14 and the Upper Pontiac broke a ten year record for power failures by the end of 2019. Other rural areas across Quebec
likely share the same story.
Where would the $535 million have the biggest impact? In the pockets of Quebecers through a $60 savings on their next bill—something that will make little difference in their lives by the next billing cycle? Or, should it have been invested in improving hydro services? Everyone, whether living in the city or the county, pays the same amount for hydro; shouldn’t we all get equal service? 
Why not use profits for a rural hydro connectivity fund, much like the federal government’s investment in rural high speed internet. This would ensure every customer receives the same service, whether they live in the heart of Montreal, or on a back road in Chichester. Would this even have to be suggested if Montreal or Quebec City experienced 109 outages in 2019 like the Upper Pontiac did?
Hydro has done some work to rectify the problems. Three years ago, they completed massive brushing in the Upper Pontiac which improved the situation before it gradually worsened again; and after an exceptionally bad month in July 2019, they repaired equipment, resulting in a drastic decrease in power failures for a couple of months.
Whether it’s used to hire additional personnel to improve response times, repair or upgrade equipment, implement new technologies, or for massive brushing, the $535 million would go a lot farther and have a much larger impact if it was
dedicated to one purpose: improved service.
It’s likely too late to redirect the upcoming reimbursement, but where should future profits go? As a government-owned entity, citizens have some say in Hydro’s operations. Let your MNA and Hydro Québec know that reliable service, for all Quebecers, should be a top priority - one worth trading some short-term gain for!