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The Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE-Québec) and the Syndicat des employés de techniques professionnelles et de bureau d’Hydro-Québec (CUPE 2000) have denounced Hydro-Québec’s planned installation of smart meters.

With an economic study in hand the unions demonstrated that, in addition to being uneconomical, the Hydro-Québec plan would result in losses of at least $104 million for the public utility. Changing its meters would cost more for Hydro-Québec while unnecessarily sacrificing 1,000 jobs in the province, all for an unpopular project that would lead to rate increases.

“With only a week until the start of the Régie de l’énergie’s public hearings on Hydro-Québec’s meter replacement project, we need to take a hard look at the true economic and social costs of a project whose relevance has yet to be demonstrated,” said Daniel Boyer, secretary-general of the FTQ.

The economic study was based on a close examination of data from Hydro-Québec and the responses it provided to the Régie de l’énergie (Energy Authority) throughout the study process.

Economist Pierre-Guy Sylvestre of CUPE Research Service found significant deficiencies, exaggerations and gaps in the financing of this project. The estimated $104 million is the minimum deficit, since information about several omissions was missing when this analysis was prepared and it does not take into account the project’s probable cost overruns.

“It makes no sense for Hydro-Québec to keep pushing an uneconomical project that will hurt the Quebec economy. We’ve concluded that, over 20 years, the meter replacement would cost at least $104 million more than the current method. If this project goes ahead, we would be unduly sacrificing close to 1,000 quality jobs while putting our electricity bill at risk and tossing out equipment that could last a number of years,” said Ginette Paul, president of CUPE 2000.

“We should also mention that this project has been rejected by the general public. More than 17,000 emails to that effect and 10,000 signed golden meters were sent to the Régie; and more than 13,000 signatures were submitted to the National Assembly opposing the project; a survey has concluded that two out of three Quebecers are not in favour of the idea,” said Lucie Levasseur, president of CUPE-Québec.

“The Quebec government has the power to make recommendations to the Régie on this matter. With a mere recommendation, Quebec could save 1,000 jobs and avoid financial disaster for its main public corporation. That would be a win-win situation for the government,” concluded the union leaders.

The Régie de l’énergie public hearings on this project will begin on March 19.

The evidence from the economic study is available on the CUPE 2000 website.