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P.E.I. Liberals, Tories spar over proposed rate hike to cover $37 million in Fiona costs

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Maritime Electric, Prince Edward Island’s power utility, was at the centre of a heated exchange in the legislature Tuesday as it asked for a rate hike to cover $37 million in post-tropical storm Fiona-related costs.

Maritime Electric wants to increase rates by 2.9 per cent for the next five years to recuperate the costs they incurred in the wake of Fiona.

The utility says it spent $37 million cleaning up after the storm.

Forty-thousand trees and limbs fell on lines. The company had to replace 1,275 poles, 445 transformers, and 140 kilometres of wire.

There were 70 crews on the Island when the storm hit, but that number ballooned to 264 just a few weeks later.

Opposition Liberals rose on the floor of the legislature Tuesday to demand government intervene.

“It well known that Maritime Electric has been negligent in its responsibility to complete vegetation management along their lines, for some time,” said Robert Henderson, Liberal MLA. “They’re behind their counterparts in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland when it comes to this issue.”

The Tories fired back, placing the blame on Ottawa for not offering assistance and saying that means the cost must either fall on the ratepayer or the taxpayer.

“Will you go to Ottawa, will you ask Justin Trudeau to come back down here, come good to his word,” said Enivronment Minister Steven Myers. “It was great to get the picture with the tears coming out of his face. It was great when he came down and got the picture with the tears, but you know what? It’s time to pay the piper.”

Maritime Electric doesn’t meet the definition of small business to qualify for the federal disaster assistance program.

In a statement, company officials say they're working to keep costs as low as possible.

If approved the hike would come into effect in March.

For more P.E.I. news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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