Category Archives: Privatization

Rafe- Weaver, BC Greens should quit supporting private river power sham

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

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:

[quote]…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.[/quote]

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.

Liberals set BC Hydro on path to privatization

Liberals set BC Hydro on path to privatization

Liberals set BC Hydro on path to privatization
Will core public assets like WAC Bennett Dam go the way of BC Rail?

It’s rather like a pregnancy – you can only keep it a secret for so long. Thus it is with BC Hydro’s bankruptcy.

We recently learned that BC Hydro spends 50% of its power purchases on power bought, on a take-or-pay basis, from Independent Power Producers (IPPs) yet only gets 16% of its power from them. Did you know that last summer, following a high spring runoff, BC Hydro was forced to spill water (i.e. waste power) over their dams, buying power from IPPs instead of making it themselves?

Did you know that since 2002 BC Hydro has been forbidden to make any new power (excepting Site C – which has been on the books for 30 years) and that all new power must be bought from private power companies?

Did you know that BC Hydro must take all private power produced whether it needs it or not?

Did you know that these agreements, involving huge amounts of public money, are secret? From what little information we do have, we know that BC Hydro must pay IPPs about 3x the market rate for power and up to 10 times what they can produce it for themselves from their heritage dams!

Did you know that BC Hydro used to pay the government hundreds of millions per year in dividends and that they will do so this year only by raising our rates? Think of that – you will pay higher rates so that BC Hydro, in the red and getting redder, can pay this back to us?

Did you know that these contracts forced on BC Hydro have committed them to spend some $55 BILLION to IPPs over the coming decades?

Did you know that BC’s main political writers, Vaughn Palmer and Mike Smyth have said virtually nothing about this for 11 years?

That’s why I raise these matters here – apart from Erik Andersen, an economist specializing in government finances, this website and The Tyee, no one of whom I am aware has written a solitary word.


I pose these questions because everyone I ask has no idea that this is going on and has been over 11 years.

This all started, as I mentioned, with the Campbell/Clark decision to make IPPs the only new suppliers of energy, with BC Hydro forced to buy it.

Did you also know that IPPs destroy the rivers they use, commit hundreds of infringements on their licenses a year and so far as I know have never been charged?

What are new Energy Minister Bill Bennett and the Clark government going to do about this as more and more people find out the truth?

It’s already started, as we are being primed to accept a substantial hike in our Hydro bills. This will be explained away as rising costs of producing power (which is true, thanks to paying all that money to IPPs), being necessary because the NDP government 13 years ago did not commit BC Hydro to make appropriate upgrades to their infrastructure – plus, I wouldn’t be surprised if the list included El Niño, sun spots, chem trails and too many seals in our oceans!

The reason people don’t know about this is the other side of the big lie technique – the utter silence method of fooling people.

The veil of secrecy has been very effective but the pregnancy is showing.

We will see, I predict, not only huge rate increases but a government blaming Hydro for mismanaging its business. Bennett and Clark will then start the process of saying, complete with crocodile tears, BC Hydro must be sold, with the dams being on a 990-year lease (ring a bell?!). Indeed it will be a reprise of BC Rail and the Fraser Institute, thanks to lack of media and two appalling election campaigns, 2009 and last May by the NDP – and the breach of duty to the public by the Campbell/Clark governments.

While the policy was created by the Liberals and kept secret by them, the NDP has its own, large share of the blame, for not raising these issues in timely fashion in day to day business. They contributed, by their silence, to the Liberals being able to proceed as if nothing was happening.

BC Hydro is worse than dead-broke, giving the government a self-made excuse to split this former jewel in our crown – leaving us all at the mercy of large international corporations.

Wait for  it – the day of reckoning approaches.

Minister admits Hydro rates going up, won't say how much

Liberals Deliberately Driving BC Hydro Debt


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.


Rafe: Clark Will Break Up BC Hydro


Over the years I have done blogs, editorials and the like unto the thousands.

This is the all time shortest.

Within the next four years, BC Hydro, once as good a power utility as there  was in the world, will be broken up.

It is, you see, presently bankrupt by private corporation standards, and only keeps, barely, afloat because it can and does go to us the taxpayers and consumers for more money.

This will end because the taxpayers/ratepayers will be tapped out.

Just what form the break-up takes, we’ll have to wait and see, but as sure as God made little green apples, she’s a goner.

Here is the crunch: Mike Harcourt will not be to blame and nor will Glen Clark, Dan Miller and Ujjal Dosanjh. Nor will it be because of some unforeseen world market.

This catastrophe belongs to Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark alone. They forced BC Hydro into making huge “sweetheart” deals with private producers to whom they now owe some $50-60 BILLION; the entire sordid affair happened on their watch with their blessing.

Christy Clark and the Liberals, on May 14, 2013, inherited their own tailor made dunghill, the only challenge being to clean it up without accepting responsibility. And with economists like our own, the truth will emerge every inch of the way.