My colleague Damien Gillis’s recent speech in Kelowna (see below) must be required reading if one is to comprehend what is going to happen to BC Hydro debt and your power bills.
Hydro was created out of the fertile mind of WAC Bennett when, in 1961, his government bought out The BC Electric Railway Company. The purpose of this gigantic move, which led to one of the longest lawsuits in history, was to provide secure and cheap hydro power for both citizens and industry. It succeeded – grandly.
During the time the Campbell Liberals were in Opposition, they planed to make the generation a private affair, and shortly after taking power, in 2002 to be exact, Premier Gordon Campbell, with Christy Clark as deputy Premier, forbade BC Hydro from generating any new power (the exception being Site “C”, which had been on the books for over two decades at that point).
The media, very much including me, fell down on the job. I can’t count the times I had the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) lawyer, David Austin, on my radio show singing the IPPs company tune. Mr. Austin did nothing wrong – he did his job and he told the story from his client’s perspective.
It was I who failed. I bought the crap about IPPs building handy-dandy little “run of the river” schemes that wouldn’t disturb the river in the slightest. Colin Hansen, then Finance Minister, did a TV interview that repeated this bullshit.
It wasn’t until 2006 that I understood what was really happening. The producer of my very short lived Internet show, gave me chapter and verse but asked me not to identify him, which I have never done. When I started to belatedly research this issue I learned that these IPP projects not only destroyed the fish but also scarred the landscape with roads for access and transmission lines.
And they ruined Hydro.
Not long afterwards I met Tom Rankin, who was to spend a fortune of his own money telling people what was really happening. I met my colleague Damien Gillis at the same time and both of us joined Tom in the Save our Rivers Society and we went to work, Damien with his camera and I with my pen and vocal cords.
We had comrades-in arms like independent economist Erik Andersen, who had the technical ability to translate into plain, unreconstructed English just what was going on.
But the NDP blew it. And here’s what’s going to happen.
BC Hydro owes IPPs $55 Billion dollars over the next 40 years, which, in itself, will break the crown corporation. During the spring months when you and I were bitching about the weather, IPPs were churning out power because the run-off is the only time most IPPs generate any appreciable power. BC HYDRO, IN THE MEANTIME, WAS FORCED TO BUY THIS POWER AT HUGELY INFLATED AMOUNTS WHILE THEY SPILLED THEIR WATER OVER THE DAMS, INSTEAD OF MAKING THEIR OWN POWER!
This energy “plan” has resulted in BCH being unable to handle its own upkeep, as we see with cost overruns to numerous capital projects.
As if things were not bad enough, now they must build Site “C” for $10 BILLION to make cheap power for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plants. It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to see that Hydro can’t possibly handle these burdens.
Then came tragedy #1. The NDP simply did not understand or certainly didn’t reflect any knowledge of this issue going into the 2009 election and the Liberals won.
Tragedy #2 came in 2013 when, once again the NDP failed to raise environmental and economic issues, including the now provable fact that BC Hydro, because of the 2002 Campbell energy plan, is broke.
I cannot forecast just how it will happen, but the Clark government will break up Hydro and the ostensible reason will be because they so mismanaged themselves as to prove their Fraser Institute proposition that only private companies know how to do things right. I can say that the first step has been taken as the government has made it clear that rates will, alas and alack, have to increase. What the government won’t tell you is that the Campbell/Clark government has deliberately brought Hydro to its fiscal knees so that it can be privatized. One guess is that somehow the dams will be leased for 990 years, a formula that they successfully got away with as they privatized BC Rail.
It gives no pleasure, I assure you, for us at The Common Sense Canadian to say “we told you so”, although the fact is that it, and especially Erik Andersen, have been spot on for years now.
No…the feeling is sorrow, anger. And a sense that perhaps we could have and should have presented our arguments better in some way. And that may be true, except I think we’re permitted to observe that with our meager resources we tried while the mainstream media were silent throughout and remain so.
Please do watch and pass on Damien’s Kelowna speech because he tells it like it is.