Premier calls for improved communication from Nova Scotia Power

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HALIFAX - The Premier of Nova Scotia says Nova Scotia Power has to improve its communication during outages.

Liberal leader Stephen MacNeil

Speaking to journalists via teleconference on Tuesday, July 8, Premier Stephen McNeil said the biggest frustration for Nova Scotians was the lack of reliable information from thepower utility.

“The biggest frustration we’ve heard from the public and we share that frustration is the timeline that has been laid out for reconnection has been disappointing at best,” he said. “It went from 24 hours one day, to another 24 hours and another 24 hours.

“What citizens require is the best information you have at the time so they make decisions either about the provisions they have at home or to step away for a time.”

The Premier said some of the problems stemmed from an automated communication system.

“Obviously they have some issues with that,” he said. “What we want to see is a better communication plan.”

McNeil said his government had “expressed strongly” their disappointment with the communications from Nova Scotia Power but he isn’t ready yet to impose penalties.

He said his government is worried about making sure that power gets restored to all residents first and then will begin assessing things like vegetation management (tree pruning) and communication especially around the severity of the damage to infrastructure.

He says the Energy minister is working on legislation to set standards for reliability and communication for the power utility but isn’t sure if that will be ready for this fall or next spring.

Some of the areas that were hardest hit by Arthur were Greenwood, north Berwick, north Waterville and Kingston in Kings County, as well as Bridgetown and the Cornwallis, Deep Brook, Clements areas in Annapolis County.

Pockets of residents in southwestern Nova Scotia might not see their power restored until Friday.

Nova Scotia Power spokesperson Neera Ritcey says that the company began contacting about 2,300 customers they had identified that are unlikely to see power restored last night.

“It doesn’t mean necessarily, but it’s likely,” Ritcey said. “Most of those are in the west (of the province).”

That’s mostly due to the nature of the clean up effort NSP crews are seeing, Ritcey said.

“There were areas in the western region where we saw hurricane-strength winds for several hours. There was wide-spread and very deep destruction. That’s what the crews are up against,” she said.

“There are some of what we call branch lines or some remote areas with access issues,” Ritcey said, that may see additional delays.

“It’s very time intensive. We’re trying to bring the largest pockets online first so we can restore more customers at the same time.”

Currently, 140 crews are in western Nova Scotia, and additional crews have been brought in from the eastern part of the province. Private contractors from both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are also on the scene.

“We are going to stay at it until every customer is back online,” she said. “We apologize for the disruption this has caused. It’s not easy to be without power for three days and then be told it will take another few days before it’s restored.”

Customers who have been unable to reach NSP or who are encountering long waits when they call are urged to call a dedicated outage line at 1-877-428-6004 and press option one. Ritcey says a customer service representative should answer at that number within a few minutes.

 

jriley@digbycourier.ca  with files from Jennifer Vardy Little

Organizations: Nova Scotia Power, The Premier, Cornwallis

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Berwick, Waterville Kings Bridgetown Deep Brook New Brunswick

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