Rising cost of living leaves people in the cold

Seniors and new homeowners are among those struggling with the cost of home heating in the province.

Outside of Ultramar at 21 Hallett Crescent, St. John's.
As of Nov. 2, the Public Utilities Board has set the price of furnace oil at $1.34 per litre in the northeast Avalon. There are people in the province who plan on cutting costs elsewhere to heat their homes this winter. (Madison Ryan/Kicker)

Madison Ryan

As the cost of living rises, there are people in the province who find themselves left in the cold.

The Avalon Peninsula saw its first snowfall of the season on Oct. 30. Some may have joked and called it a Halloween trick, but for people like Heather Kennery, it was an unpleasant reminder that heat bills are about to increase. 

Kennery lives in St. John’s with her husband. She works two jobs. She says even with multiple streams of income and no children, the couple still struggles to heat their home with oil.

“Last year, it was well over $5,000 for the winter… it was definitely a wake-up call,” said Kennery.

According to the Public Utilities Board, the maximum retail price of furnace oil in the Northeast Avalon zone is $1.34 per litre, excluding tax, as of Nov 2. 

Households that use home heating oil can expect a slight break in prices when a three-year carbon tax pause comes into place on Nov. 9. The amount of the tax break varies according to usage. The federal government also announced a doubled Climate Action Incentive Payment for rural Canadians, effective April of next year. The rebate was previously 10 per cent of the baseline fuel amount, but it will become 20 per cent in 2024. 

“We didn’t realize how much the winter was going to cost us.”

– Heather Kennery

In the meantime, some difficult choices are being made in order to keep warm – especially by those on a limited income, such as seniors. Gary French, a senior from St. John’s, has had to make some changes in recent years.

“I have had to cut back on groceries, owing in part that I want to keep enough in my account for furnace oil,” he said. 

With pets in the house, French says it’s sometimes difficult to conserve heat, but he tries his best to keep it turned down during the daytime. Much like Kennery, he’ll leave the oil burning in the morning, but turn it down later. 

The colder weather, says Kennery, comes with much uncertainty. 

“Last year, it was really expensive,” said Kennery about her heating bills from the previous winter. “It was our first time living in an oil-heated home. So, we definitely are using a lot less than we did last year, because we didn’t realize how much the winter was going to cost us.”

To offset the cost, Kennery says she only turns on the heat for a total of one hour a day. 

French, on the other hand, isn’t expecting his bills to go down any more. He’s not sure what his next fill-up will cost, but he says he won’t be surprised if it increases.

“Last winter, it was $4,000. The winter before that, it was $2,700,” he said. 

Many seniors in the province are voicing their concern over the cost of home heating on a Facebook group called Support Our Seniors, and French is a member. He empathizes with those who live on fixed incomes, and he’s read many stories about the challenges.

“I’ve heard that some seniors go to one of the malls to keep warm during the daytime so they don’t have to turn the furnace up,” said French. “Some wear big sweaters around the house to keep warm, so I suppose it’s a mixed bag there.” 

French finds oil heating comfortable. He’d like to see some bigger rebates from government, but in the meantime, he says he’s trying his best to make ends meet. 

The new three-year pause on the carbon tax is welcomed by Kennery, but she’s also considering switching to electric heat to eventually save more on home heating. She says like most people, she’ll be more cost conscious at the grocery store in the coming months. 

Like others this winter, Kennery and French both plan to continue bundling up around the house when snow starts to fall and temperatures start to drop.

About Madison Ryan 20 Articles
Madison Ryan is an award-winning fiction writer, a music reviewer and a student journalist. She loves escaping into fantasy stories, but she’s dedicated to telling the real-life stories that matter to our communities. Contact her at @madisonjryan on Twitter/X with news tips.

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