Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council is looking at using Covid relief funds to help community members offset the costs of their natural gas bills, which saw a sharp increase this past winter.
Council discussed the measure at last night’s meeting, as well as political action regarding a possible exemption on the federal carbon tax, to help reduce natural gas bills for Six Nations residents.
Tracy Skye, general manager at Six Nations Natural Gas, said gas prices are beyond their control.
What’s more, people can expect to see even higher prices as the Russian invasion of the Ukraine rages on. Those increases can be seen by the time April bills roll around.
Just this week, Shell announced it would stop importing natural gas from Russia, as dozens of companies worldwide cease doing business with the country due its invasion of the Ukraine.
Six Nations Natural Gas buys from Shell.
“Six Nations doesn’t have control over these costs,” said Skye.
What’s more, the federal carbon tax will also be going up in April – the third time since the start of the pandemic.
The carbon tax, aimed to try to reduce the impact of climate change, is not considered a traditional tax, Skye said a lawyer told her, meaning First Nations communities normally exempt from taxation still have to pay it as part of their gas bills.
That is a political issue that goes beyond the scope of the natural gas company, said Skye.
Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council said with the pandemic almost over, it’s time to start holding politicians accountable again and holding their feet to the fire over a multitude of issues the community is facing.
“We need to start meeting with people and start lobbying,” said Miller. “We’ve let them go for two years.”
Skye said the only cost the natural gas company controls is a transportation cost used to fund the utility’s operations. But that cost hasn’t changed since 2013.
A brutal cold snap this past winter saw furnaces working overtime, and Skye recommended community members take steps to reduce their heating costs.
Some of those measures, she said, include: sealing up drafts, changing furnace filters regularly, removing air conditioners over the winter and sealing the spaces properly, ensuring the home is properly insulated, and using a smart thermostat to program less usage during the day when nobody is home.
Council agreed to look at using Covid relief funding for immediate help for residents, while working on longer-term solutions like the carbon tax exemption.