Hydro: Ignoring the $50 Billion Elephant in the Room

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Coleman, Palmer on Hydro: Ignoring the $50 Billion Elephant in the Room
This will be harsh, I warn you. In preparation I urge you to read Dr. Marvin Shaffer’s (SFU) article in the Vancouver Sun last Monday.

My position today is that the Vancouver Sun’s lead columnist, whom I once greatly admired, Vaughn Palmer, has abandoned his journalistic duty; while Energy Minister Rich Coleman, whom I had come to regard as a man of integrity based upon his work for the homeless, is a political hack unworthy of his “Honourable”.
I do not say these things lightly and ask you to be the judge.
The subject is BC Hydro and its proposed rate hikes, which Coleman has vowed to examine closely and Mr. Palmer has spent his last two columns on.


Here is one of the salient facts that stands out in Dr Shaffer’s presentation:

“The fact that the electricity BC Hydro is being forced to buy is costing more than double what the electricity is worth, now and in the foreseeable future, does not seem to matter. The legislation is absolute. BC Hydro must acquire this extra electricity supply whatever its impact on costs and rates” [it’s also power created, for the most part, when BC Hydro doesn’t need it. - RM]

Dr. Shaffer is a man whose credentials and honesty are above reproach – to say that he is highly respected goes without saying. Great credit to the Sun's editors for printing his op-ed.
This madness had escaped the notice, evidently, of the Minister and Palmer. Is that because the amount is small?
The amount, today and climbing, is approximately $50 Billion dollars - which sum is carefully concealed - but because of an earlier statement by Coleman has been verified and is also verified by Erik Andersen, a highly respected (non-political, I hastily add) economist who specializes in assessing public finances.
Vaughn Palmer and Rich Coleman are “investigating the rate increases BC Hydro claims it needs” by overlooking $50 Billion.
How much is $50 Billion?
It is 50,000 million dollars. If you live in Kamloops or Kelowna every one of your neighbours has $500,000 in the bank!
This amount is owed by BC Hydro to private power corporations, paid as it presently stands, at over $1 billion (1000 million) a year and rising, for energy they don’t need - at twice or more its value. And Mr. Coleman and Palmer slough it off! Don’t even mention it!
And who do you think is going to pay this?
Three guesses and the first two don’t count!
This is, in effect, what we’re all doing as ratepayers – subsidizing huge corporations like General Electric to destroy our rivers for power we can’t, for the most part use, for which we must pay twice or more what its worth.
The net effect of this is that BC Hydro is no longer able to pay its annual handsome dividend to our government. BC Hydro, were it in the private sector and unable to pass its losses onto the public, would now be headed for bankruptcy protection. Did you get that? The only way BC Hydro can avoid bankruptcy is this: soak British Columbians with higher and higher rates!
The dots are easy to connect – because of government policy we pay General Electric, Ledcor and other similarly small mom-and-pop operators to make power that BC Hydro must (under the take-or-pay contracts) pay for when they don’t need it, or export it at a huge loss – all the while destroying our rivers and the ecosystems they support.
I don’t impugn the motives of Mr. Palmer or the strange silence from the pen of Mike Smyth - I simply don’t know how and why they would not do the kind of work on the Liberal government as Palmer did with NDP premier Glen Clark and his fast ferries.
The motives of Mr. Coleman can be easily stated: he’s a politician prepared to say anything - or remain silent on anything - to avoid confessing government error.
I issue this warning to Christy Clark: the chickens are coming home to roost and soon. It’s now too late to avoid this in time for a snap election.
Premier W.A.C. Bennett created BC Hydro so that British Columbians could use their massive hydro power to compete for industry and until Gordon Campbell came along it worked brilliantly. Now it’s in tatters with BC Hydro pleading with the public to fill its begging bowl.
Our government, lying through its teeth*, has not only destroyed our rivers and their ecologies, it has subsidized large corporations to fleece us, destroy one of the world’s finest power companies while paying them billions of our dollars as a bonus!
Surely the very least we must conclude is that Palmer is not worth reading and the government are unfit to govern.

*Please watch this 2 min video of Colin Hansen spewing falsehood upon falsehood, in his presentation as then Finance Minister of the Liberal government’s Energy Policy.


Rafe Mair was a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. Since 1981 he has been a radio talk show host, and is recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists.  

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