'I feel so happy': This Ottawa man had his hydro turned back on after 8 years

Published Aug. 31, 2022 6:51 p.m. ET

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An Ottawa man who had been living off the grid since his hydro was cut off almost nine years ago had his power restored Wednesday.

Bernard Steele was cut off from the grid in 2014 after suffering a heart attack. He had an extended stay in hospital and his power was cut while he was gone. After he returned home, it was never hooked back up.

Steele says the last eight years have been incredibly difficult. He’s been embarrassed and struggled during cold winters and warm summers. He says the community that has supported him in his building got him through it.

"They cut my electricity off in the winter time with total disregard for human rights," Steele said.

He fought with Hydro Ottawa to get it back.

"They said they looked on their computer and they said that apartment does not exist in that building...I said, 'Well, they cut my electricity off, they knew it existed then.'"

At some point he simply gave up and decided to try to live without it.

Steele relies on solar panels to power 12-volt batteries, enough to power up a light when he needs it or play the radio. He receives Ontario’s disability support program (ODSP) but after paying rent he isn't left with much.

"Ten dollars a day, but people in the building, at supper time, they make me a warm meal. This has been eight difficult years, especially in the winter time,"

Neighbours like Louise Valiquette have been his life line, helping feed him when she can.

"It's egregious. Could you imagine eight years without electricity?" she said.

And she’s been fighting for him to get his power back.

"We have to do something to change the situation."

In the last few days as the group increased the pressure, CTV News made calls to Ottawa Hydro as well. Finally, there was a positive turn Wednesday afternoon.

To Steele's surprise, it was a visit from Hydro Ottawa. The lights went back on for the first time since 2014.

"I feel so happy to be able to get my life back together again," he said. "I'd really like to thank the members of CTV for helping me get my electricity back on."

Hydro Ottawa told CTV News in a statement it must abide by certain rules, but is happy to see Steele's electricity has been restored.

"Over the years, Hydro Ottawa's focus has remained: delivering value across the entire customer experience. We are always here to assist and provide options to our customers in ways that best meet their individual circumstances and needs. But as a regulated business, we do have to operate under specific rules and regulations set by the Ontario Energy Board and the Electrical Safety Authority. This would be the case when a customer is disconnected. We are happy to see that Mr. Steele has been reconnected."

Restoration of Steele's power is an occasion worth celebrating and Valiquette has a plan already.

"I promised him when his hydro is connected i would bake him a cake," she said.


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