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City hikes electric rates by nine per cent

New Westminster residents may get a shock when they see their April electric bill.

Their statements were supposed to see a seven per cent jolt to them as of April 1. That's the rate hike city council approved in November. But on Monday council jacked that up to nine per cent.

The increase is to match the nine per cent rise the provincial government put on BC Hydro rates. New Westminster's electric utility purchases its electricity from Hydro.

A city report said a household using 1,000 kilowatt hours per month will pay $100.29, an increase of $8.28.

Mayor Wayne Wright said New Westminster had to follow suit because the utility's infrastructure needs updating. Electric utility general manager Rod Carle said the city is looking at capital costs of $30-35 million.

"We're at a capital crunch at this moment," said Wright. "It really is difficult for us to change any of this … We can't afford to have these revenues not coming in."

Coun. Chuck Puchmayr blamed the provincial government for driving B.C. into a private system that doesn't allow BC Hydro to benefit from the open market.

"I know we can't absorb this (Hydro rate increase), but I think the public needs to know there has been a piracy of our electric utility," said Puchmayr.

Coun. Betty McIntosh was the only dissenter calling nine per cent "quite hurtful."

"Could we not do seven per cent? I'm just throwing it out there. Nine is huge," said McIntosh.

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