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Rafe: Weaver, BC Greens should quit backing private river power sham

Posted March 29, 2016 by Rafe Mair in WATER
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Rafe- Weaver, BC Greens should quit supporting private river power sham

Dr. Andrew Weaver, leader of the BC Green Party, has long supported IPPs

It’s been a disappointing week. We all have them.

In a moment, I’ll get to my frustration with the BC Green Party and its leader Dr. Andrew Weaver – but my disappointment started with a letter from Fair Voting Canada (FVC) in answer to a letter from me offering support in their fight for reform of our voting system.

As you know, the Trudeau government has set up a committee to hear evidence in order to bring forth a bill to change the system from First Past The Post (FPTP) to some form of Proportional Representation (PR).

Though it has nothing to do with their bleated moral virtue but everything to do with getting past the next election still under FPTP the Tories tendentiously insist that there must be a referendum.

I have a manuscript into the publisher on the Canadian Constitution which really could be called “the constitution for dummies”. Meaning no disrespect, it’s an uncomplicated look at how we run things and puts forward some options for reform. I offered this book to FVC, no strings attached, but then we hit upon a serious problem.

System be left to reform itself

My position was taken after considerable study and some 40 years of experience in the field at the highest level. I examined FPTP, PR, Alternative Voting, and STV as recommended by the BC Electoral Assembly in in 2008.

While FVC and I came to the same conclusion, FVC would not have a referendum but would leave implementation entirely to the Parliament of Canada – which is saying to Mr. Trudeau and his whipped Liberal caucus.

It seems to me, and I hate to use this word about such sincere people, that it’s pretty hypocritical to call for “fair voting” and deny the vote to people on the very issue at stake. The morality is scarcely improved by the fact they agree with Trudeau’s position but, intended or not, is “we know best” elitism. I want the same thing but know that unless it comes from the people, it will never really be legitimate and never fully accepted.

Obeying the elites

The reason – I would call it an excuse – that FVC gives is that it will be too late, thanks to the delays of the Harper government, to hold a referendum in time for the next election. Therefore, goes the reasoning, the lousy system we used to let this crowd in, because time is awkward, will be replaced by one we who know best have selected!

This smacks of the discipline Canadians traditionally impose upon themselves in favour of the pronouncements of the elite. It just goes back, I suppose, to British autocracy as represented in our Constitution, which doesn’t talk about liberty, but “peace, order, and good government”. Somehow, even in 2016, we’re prepared to obey the elites rather than think for ourselves. The elites know that, so don’t trouble us with things like referenda.

I ask FVC and their allies like Leadnow: What the hell are you afraid of? How can you possibly want to improve a democracy by denying democracy and then pretend that you have actually reformed the country?

Greens don’t get it on Hydro

My second disappointment was with the BC Green Party and in particular its leader Dr. Andrew Weaver.

I consider myself a Green, though not a Party member, and am a huge fan of their national leader Elizabeth May. My attraction to the Greens is that they honour the environment with political muscle while at the same time recognizing that people must work, live and eat. Unlike other parties, they don’t see these as mutually exclusive ideas.

I have tried to meet with Dr. Weaver on a number of occasions but it hasn’t happened. My quarrel with him and the party is a very simple one.

In 2003 the Gordon Campbell government brought in the infamous “energy plan” which essentially did two things – it denied BC Hydro the right to make any new power other than Site C and mandated that all future power must be made by private power companies – euphemistically branded Independent Power Producers (IPPs). Their power would be sold to BC Hydro at inflated prices with our crown corporation forced to take all the power the private companies produce, whether they need it or not.

Construction of a private power project on the Ashlu River (Photo: Range Life)

Construction of a private power project on the Ashlu River (Photo: Range Life)

This was sold by the Campbell government as being environmentally neutral because the companies would all be little “Mom and Pop” operations, the rivers wouldn’t be dammed, just an unobtrusive little weir, and the flow of water unimpeded. Therefore, we could expect no environmental damage. At the time I kept and still have the video of Finance Minister Colin Hansen peddling this crap.

I came into the picture, along with Damien Gillis and others in 2008. I was on a sharp learning curve mainly because I could not believe what I was being told.

It was not long before I found that these IPPs were very substantial operations. The weirs were large obstructions, whether called a dam or not; the water flow was seriously impeded (up to 95% of a river’s flow diverted through large pipes or bus-sized tunnels for miles); when the salmon runs came up the river, it was low water and the artificial channels built to accommodate them were a bad joke. The foliage around the rivers was destroyed for the purposes of the “dam” and transmission lines, there were trees cut down and roads built and so-called “Mom and Pop” operations were mostly subsidiaries of large, mostly American companies, who took our money out of the country. The whole program as started by the Campbell government and perpetuated by Clark was bullshit.

IPPs are a financial scam for BC

I consulted with a number of people, including highly-regarded economist Erik Andersen, and saw that the financial arrangements BC Hydro was forced to make were ruinous, and would inevitably lead to bankruptcy in a fairly short period of time.

Putting this all together, Damien and I, working on behalf of the Save Our Rivers Society, were joined by others – and I particularly note Joe Foy of the Wilderness Committee – and we toured the Province, often speaking at meetings put on for the same purpose by COPE 378, during the 2009 election, telling people, chapter and verse, what was going on. The story we told, as I related above, just seemed too preposterous for people to believe. No government would be so careless of the environment, so negligent about BC Hydro and its finances as we were stating. Evidently, Dr. Andrew Weaver, now leader of the Green party, couldn’t accept the obvious either, and campaigned vigorously on behalf of the Liberal energy policy, ignoring the easily available information I had, declaring it was “clean energy”.

I wouldn’t now hold this against Dr. Weaver if he had taken a little time to see what has happened since but he hasn’t and still supports the Liberals on this point.

Rates soar as Hydro buckles under private debt

It’s just as Erik Andersen and other economists predicted, except much worse. Rivers, salmon runs, aquatic life and vegetation have been destroyed, just as Joe, Damien and I predicted.

On the economic front, I don’t think I have to tell you what has happened to BC Hydro. It has been well reported and must have been seen by Dr. Weaver. As a direct consequence of this economic catastrophe visited upon BC Hydro by the Campbell/Clark energy policy,  that Weaver supports, our once great Crown corporation is now de facto bankrupt.

This is hardly just Rafe Mair or Damien Gillis talking. Readers of The Common Sense Canadian have seen the evidence build over the past few years as we reported it. The tragic figures are now common knowledge and available on the Internet. You have all seen the numbers and know the terrible shape BC Hydro is in. As a reminder, here’s blogger Norm Farrell’s explanation:

…from 1996 to 2016, purchases from independent power producers (IPPs) soared by 839% to 14,877 GWh, which cost about $1.3 billion in the current fiscal year. According to BC Public Accounts, the obligation to IPPs is $1.85 billion in the year ended March 2016.

Alas, that’s not all. We have Site C which will certainly cost more than $10 Billion to produce energy we don’t need, and without any customers unless Christy Clark comes up with an LNG industry to supply countries that don’t need it, in a world market with a massive glut of gas.

Weaver still backs IPPs

Sadly, while Dr. Andrew Weaver has spoken out of late against Site C Dam, he and the BC Green Party fully support the Campbell/Clark energy policy and the continued enriching of the rich while bankrupting BC Hydro. If you wish to confirm this, listen to the Ian Jessop Show on CFAX from December 17 1 PM slot (the second interview, start listening around the 41 min mark). It’s worth the trouble.

There, you will hear Dr. Weaver still praising private power – only criticizing the Liberals’ lack of environmental monitoring and enforcement. What he fails to recognize or admit is that this industry has never been monitored, nor any protections enforced, since day one, which is precisely what we’ve been warning for nearly a decade now. This is not some mere wrinkle or oversight – it’s exactly how a privatized system is designed to work.

I’m keenly disappointed. I honestly believed that a party had appeared that British Columbians could support and I no longer believe that. I have written to Dr. Weaver and advised him of that.

The result, then, at this moment in time, is that the Christy Clark government has had a huge stroke of luck, assuming that John Horgan and the NDP don’t follow Damien’s advice here a few days ago – and they show no signs of doing so. Better the party loses an election than the leader loses face.

This, then, is the extent of the tragedy and you can understand, I think, why this is a disappointing moment.

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About the Author

Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at rafeonline.com.

46 Comments


  1.  
    Gunther Ostermann

    Gunther Ostermann Site C dam. Maybe Pierre would kick Justin’s ass today, if he could.

    http://www.kelownadailycourier.ca/opinion/letters_to_editor/article_f152ce80-3f13-11e6-8461-37498a01ad53.html




  2.  

    Hemingway reminded us the sun also rises.
    Let me remind you the sun also sets.
    That’s why we needed stored hydro power to back up all the other wonderful but interruptible sources of sustainable power.
    http://dreamgreen.ca/WhySiteC.html




  3.  
    Shawn

    that is not why weaver backs the thing and you know it…..it creates a gaurantee for BC Hydro to buy a certain set percentage of renewable power … it is a way to better utilize renewables and insure a market for them…dont believe this smear tactic people




    •  
      Randal hadland

      From the looks of things it isn’t independent power production that is the problem. The problem is the Campbell/ Clark governments and supporters of corporate rip-offs. IPPs can be mom and pop. Just because the BC Liberals opted for ugly doesn’t mean that that is the only, or the best, or even in the running for the kind of energy production that independent, or crown corporation initiative might develop in BC.




    •  
      Allison Jean Munn Barber

      Andrew Weaver is a pompous ass that is just fine with the Liberals taking donations from whomever, and Clark getting bonus pay from her party. He is the one who will be entirely responsible if Clark is re-elected: he needs to create a coalition with the NDP to get these hogs out of the trough. I’ve told him so. But the ego maniac calls the NDP “more of the same”.




  4.  
    J.

    Weaver and the similar Greens who support IPP/RofRiver projects are IDIOTS! Do they want to get more in donations for this? probably… Weaver now has ZERO credibility… BC is a lost cause




  5.  
    Retired sawfiler

    Thank you Rafe for stimulating intelligent and honest discussion on vital concerns of our Beautiful province. For some time I’ve been suspicious of Weaver, why do honest Greens tolerate him?




  6.  
    Dave Johnson

    Let’s be frank here..

    The VAST majority of the electorate has no idea what an IPP is other than maybe hearing the acronym. I doubt this will be remotely an election issue.

    It’s going to be “balanced budget, best economy in Canada, and LNG is coming”. I don’t think anything else will play in a serious manner.




    •  
      Paula Howley

      You’re right. Most of the electorate does not know what an IPP is. I consider myself an intelligent person and I am just finding out. Like so many others though, but I have a job and another job with a home schooled kid to raise as well as other social justice issues which affect my life daily much more than IPPs. So here I am pretty much just hearing about them the day before the election. I am pretty upset to learn about this because I really like and respect my local Green candidate.




  7.  
    Lynda

    Yes, thank you for bringing this to my attention. I’m afraid I won’t be able to vote Green when Crispy and her gang get the boot. Now I don’t know who to vote for. Crispy is insane, NDP can’t make a stand on anything, and the Greens just disappointed the hell out of me.




  8.  
    Tanya Bower

    Now will you entertain the idea that the whole thing is an elaborate scam?

    “Three Brand New Peer-Reviewed Papers Refute IPCC Global Warming Science, Climate Models!”

    http://notrickszone.com/2016/03/28/three-brand-new-peer-reviewed-papers-refute-ipcc-global-warming-science-climate-models/#sthash.pnPfoXqH.dpbs




    •  

      Of course not. More than 90% of the the worlds scientists are on one side.

      More than that Tanya, as a lawyer, I can assure you that there isn’t a proposition ever propounded that I couldn’t make a case against.

      Are you a “round earther” – I guarantee I can make, superficiallyand selectively, a hell of a case for it being flat.

      Believe in God? I can rally no end of scientists including Richard Dawkins to refute that. In support, hundreds of the world’s greatest thinkers including Albert Einstein.

      No Tanya, the scientists have done more than meet the civil onus of “on a balance of probalities” and satusfied the criminal test of “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

      Beyond “a ahadow of a doubt”?

      Perhaps not but it’s hard, for me impossible, to think of any proposition that meets that test,

      But, Tanya, if you’re wrong, if your scientists are wrong, everything is lost. If I’m wrong, we have still made the world a hell of a lot better, safer, cleaner and a much nicer place to live.

      One might reduce the argument, then, to this: “Better safe than sorry”!




  9.  
    Dave Johnson

    Andrew Weaver is not, and never has been, Green. He is a political opportunist who thought it would be a great challenge to get involved with an alternative party and see what he can do as a lone voice. Unfortunately, he speaks with forked tongue.

    The Greens need to dump him ASAP or they will not be a factor next year; he may not even keep his seat.




  10.  
    T. Jones

    Very disturbing to see how our BC government has let our beautiful province go to hell. I am so sad to see how powerless a non-corporate entity is in keeping our air and water clean. Then our beautiful salmon haven’t a chance in hell as between the gauntlet of run of river dams they have no choice to navigate to get to the sea, they are then met with a gauntlet of fish farms, freighters and tankers, then back upriver to spawn? At least the Christy government has the salmon’so back in the spawning rivers as the poor grizzlies are getting shot by her psychopathic friends who like to take selfies with dead animals to share with their demented buddies. Wow. Really?




  11.  
    John

    One of the questions I have about IPP contracts is prompted by various regulatory commission’s moving to change net metering buyback rates for home solar producers from retail power rates, to wholesale rates. Do BC IPP’s pay Hydro for the use of the grid infrastructure to deliver power? If they don’t, aren’t we in fact subsidizing their costs in addition to the outrageous rates they are being paid to guarantee them a profit without any risk?




  12.  
    Bill Malcolm

    Speaking from the East coast here, NS, but with relatives in BC.

    The post about FVC is dead on and very well-elucidated. You my well have changed me to a pro-referendum person on the issue.

    Regarding the sorry situation regarding IPPs. I’ve read Farrell for some time and found him incomprehensible, and although now retired was an engineer at an electric utility for many years. You, on the other hand make complete sense, and I now get it.

    My question is, does BC not have an independent Utilities and Review Board which goes over these issues of independent power producers and how their product is integrated into BC Hydro’s operation, and what the tariffs should be as time goes by? Also, where was the provincial department of the environment as these cowboys tore up the countryside?

    We get bombarded by these independent power types touting this and that, here it’s now windmills, and complaining at the main utility, all the while not having a clue about the safe and economical operation of the electric system, nor even caring about that aspect – they are grimly focused on themselves and portraying themselves as Green while of course lining their own pockets. Our UARB also puts the brake on most of the egregious monopolistic tendencies of the main power company, forcing it to think beyond its stodgy policies and wake up to some modern realities, which include absorbing IPP project energy that actually make sense. There is a goal and timeline for getting off thermal production.

    Even our premier, content to be as dictatorial as harper was, while pushing the austerity line despite being Liberal, and handing out plum jobs to the faithful, family and amigos, doesn’t tangle with the UARB. Where’s your UARB and its moderating influence on quack politicians and fellow and opposing business travellers of all types pushing stupid agendas?

    If you have no such independent entity, and it is pretty standard practice across North America to have a Public Utilities Commission or similar in a state or province, and the politicians are running BC Hydro and its policies, you have the classic case of the inmates running the asylum. Very little about running an electric utility is as simple as it seems on the surface, yet the public and politicians seem to think running one properly is a cakewalk, hence the need for a moderating independent influence.




    •  

      Bill . We have the BC Utilities Commission which, when left to its own devices, does a good job. The Clark government has defanged it and prevent it from working. We have got so used to it castrated,we’re numb. It’s awful.

      The new Christy Clark Deputy in charge of Climate Control is a former Fellow of the Fraser Institute and is a Climate Change Denier, publicly on the record as such. He used to be an editor of the Vancouver Sun which, along with our other paper, the Province is a Postmedia paper. Postmedia has a formal, mutual masturbation agreement with the Canadian Association of Oil Producers, CAPP, where they, well, mutually masturbate, so fossil fuels get a free ride plus from the Sun and the Province, the latter of which is a formal partner with a group of LNG cheerleaders, called Resource Works whose job is to get approval for Woodfibre LNG in Squamish at the top of gorgeous Howe Sound and is owned by an Indonesian jungle burner and crook named Sukanto Tanoto who last year threw and paid for a huge fundraiser for the local Liberal MLA at the posh Capilano Golf Club. Under Christy, BC Hydro must buy all its power from Independent Power Producers, little Mom and Pop companies like General Electric which have destroyed the rivers and Fish runs and BCH has to pay about double the market price for the power and has to take all the power produced whether they need it or not and is now de facto bankrupt and still has to pay $10 billion plus for Site C to make electricity BC doesn’t need and for which there are no customers … and Bill, how dare you question the honesty, integrity and sound business sense of the Christy Clark government, especially since she went to three of the world’s best universities, flunked out of two and was kicked out of the other for cheating in a student election? Why, the province is inthevery best of hands!




    •  
      Ron Wilton

      You really have to live here to believe the insanity that pervades our governance out here on the fringe and most readers find Norm exceptionally insightful and refreshingly comprehensible and we would be so much poorly informed without him.




  13.  
    Ron Wall

    I agree with the general tone of your article (i.e. I haven’t read it). How could they forget about the salmon!




  14.  
    Hugh

    What do you think of this?

    “Ms. Jessica L. Mcdonald has been Chief Executive Officer and President of British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority since July 14, 2014. Ms. Mcdonald serves on the Board of Directors for ICBC.

    She was an Independent Consultant, specialized in management and organizational performance, and commercial mediation and negotiation on major infrastructure and industrial projects in BC (such as?), as well as Executive Vice-President, Heenan Blaikie.

    She has been chairman of Powertech Labs Inc. since July 2014. She served as a Deputy Minister in the British Columbia government for six years and served in a number of other posts in government under numerous different administrations beginning in 1991.

    From 2005 to 2009, she served the most senior public service position in the provincial government as deputy minister to the premier, cabinet secretary and head of the BC Public Service, responsible for oversight of all aspects of government operations. ……..”

    http://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/private/person.asp?personId=268228432&privcapId=877814&previousCapId=30971429&previousTitle=Inventure%20Solutions,%20Inc.

    Remember the BC Clean Energy Act, which gives a huge benefit to IPPs, came out in 2010.




  15.  
    Hugh

    The connection between Site C and IPPs is that much of the IPP power is intermittent, like run of river hydro. The power also may come at the wrong time.

    So big reservoirs are needed to backup the power, like Site C would create, in addition to the existing reservoirs.

    So you have BC Hydro (still mostly public-owned) spending $10 billion on Site C (if it gets built), in order to lose even more money buying more intermittent, un-needed IPP power.




  16.  

    In addition to supporting the ruination of our wild rivers and BC Hydro, Andrew Weaver’s “green” credentials must be questioned regarding his support for BC’s grizzly bear trophy hunt and wolf cull. I guess he wants the votes of BC Wildlife Federation, BC Cattlemen , BC Trappers Association members.




  17.  
    Salal

    Thank you Rafe for highlighting Weaver’s position on “run of river.”
    That position is unacceptable.





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