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Award-winning writer and broadcaster Stephen Kimber is a professor of journalism at University of King's College in Halifax. He writes about issues facing Halifax and Nova Scotia every Monday for Metro.

Nova Scotia Power’s everyday ‘standard’ just isn’t good enough

It is well past time we had a comprehensive and independent audit of Nova Scotia Power’s performance.


I woke up one recent morning and flipped on the radio. “Nova Scotia Power is reporting its first outage of the morning,” the newscaster began. It was not a storm day. Or the day after. Or even the day after that. We were in the middle of a brief winter storm interregnum. Skies were clear.

Another day, another news report. On Feb. 3, the Digby Courier reported 5,800 customers in Clare and Weymouth were without power — “just like yesterday.” The cause of the first outage: “damage to overhead equipment.” The cause of the second: “equipment failure.” Unrelated to the first, according to a Nova Scotia Power spokesperson.
What is going on?

In July 2014, tens of thousands of Nova Scotia Power customers lost power for a week, thanks to post-tropical storm Arthur (note Art wasn’t even a hurricane by the time it hit us).

Public outrage led to public apology, led to official report, led to… well, nowhere.

The report said the company needed better forecasting services so it would know what was about to happen before it did (good plan), an updated website (ditto) and an actual communications plan (ya think?) to communicate to customers so they would know when to expect their lights to come back on.

But the consultants the company hired said the utility’s response was “within industry norms.”

It is well past time the Stephen McNeil government and/or the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board ordered a comprehensive, independent audit of Nova Scotia Power’s performance going back to before it was turned back over the private sector.

Has Nova Scotia Power’s role as cash cow for parent Emera led to reductions in maintenance and emergency personnel, and/or a failure to update and maintain the power grid?

We need to ask questions — and demand answers — or we’ll keep hearing yet story after story about today’s “first” outage.

Stephen Kimber is a professor of journalism at the University of King’s College in Halifax and an award-winning writer, editor and broadcaster. Halifax matters runs every Monday.