Cobb Fallout: Coleman, Clark Say No New IPPs but Refuse to Kill Policy


The admission by Dave Cobb, President of BC Hydro, that Hydro is spending 100s of millions for energy they don’t need came as a shock, except for Damien Gillis and me and others, notably the Wilderness Committee, who have been saying this for three years without a peep out of the government. It’s too bad that Mr. Cobb didn’t stand up and be counted by way of a press conference – instead his remarks were leaked. It could still cost him his job, although if he were fired, he would get a pretty penny in severance, to be paid by us of course.

The response by Energy Minister Rich Coleman is what I would expect from a member of this appalling government, though I did harbour hope, in vain, that the minister is made of sterner stuff. He simply replied that they had no plans for any more private power at this time, but they’d be sticking with the underlying policies that justified IPPs – criticized by both Cobb and the recent panel report on Hydro.

Coleman knows, or ought to know, that there will be no new private power, period. The political fall-out from Mr. Cobb’s statement has been enormous but if Bute Inlet, Glacier-Howser or other projects are approved, this government will never be allowed to get away with it. Without any doubt, such a happening would be ugly.

Let’s not overlook another problem: the environment. This is what got many of us involved in the first place. The environmental consequences of these plants is enormous and that alone would have kept any government of decent, caring people away from private power in the first place.

The issue of private power being both wrong economically and environmentally was raised by Dr. John Calvert in Liquid Gold, a book that every one should read. When Damien, Tom Rankin, I and others started raising the economic argument, it was greeted by silence, making me think of the famous Sherlock Holmes story about the dog that didn’t bark. Roughly, in the solving of the case, Holmes said that he solved it because of the dog. When it was pointed out to him that the dog hadn’t barked Holmes said, “Precisely.” We were, up until last week, faced by public dogs that wouldn’t bark, which confirmed we were right.
It wasn’t easy dealing with this matter, for the government insisted on the negotiations and the contracts remaining secret. Reflect on that for a moment – Billions of dollars of taxpayer’s money, given away in secret deals!

We had to fly blind with no help whatever from the mainstream media. Dr. Calvert’s book was published 4 years ago and the media remained silent. Op-ed pieces by industry and apologists for it were as regular as ones supporting fish farms but nary a discouraging word. The “hardnosed” columnists, Vaughn Palmer and Mike Smyth said nothing. Indeed the Province, the day after the Sun finally printed the statement of Mr. Cobb – and blockbuster story it was – was silent on the subject. Frankly, it’s been lonely as hell.
Now comes the issue of what next?
I can only tell you what an honest government would do. The minister would state that the policy had turned out to be too pricey for the shareholders (us) and it was hereby abandoned and would not be revived, Finis.
But this is not an honest government. It has been a corrupt gang from the start and Christy Clark was part of it, an integral part, as deputy premier. During her time in radio, she raised not a whisper about the Energy Plan – indeed she abstained from any criticism of the government. The hallmark of this bunch is one falsehood after another. They make the last NDP government look like paragons of virtue with brilliant economic policies.

When, in 2001, then attorney-general Geoff Plant introduced the legislation for fixed election dates in the legislature, he called it “an important tool for moving some of the power out of the premier’s office and restoring public trust in the political system.”

“When people are suspicious of the timing of an election, they become suspicious of the work their politicians do,” he said.

Deputy Premier Clark vociferously supported the move then, but somehow 10 years later – when a premier wants to exercise that very power we all assumed had been taken away – she recants. This is quite in tune with the insincerity and dishonesty of this government.

The revelation by Mr. Cobb could not come at a worse time. Premier Clark had hoped that the blue ribbon committee set up by Rich Coleman would fuzzy over the scandalous issue of costly and useless private power but, try as they might to be nice to the government, they disappointed the premier, who thought she could run an election with BC Hydro an issue for environmental kooks only.

It fortifies an old and cynical rule that governments should never appoint commissions unless they know what their answer will be or don’t care. Ms. Clark cares about this answer, that’s for sure!

Whether there’s an election in the fall or on its proper day in 2013, Premier Clark will have to tell us why she supports a policy which gives private power a monopoly to create new power which BC Hydro doesn’t need but is compelled to buy at a huge loss – while the IPPs ravish the environment.

I sense that no matter when she calls an election, Premier Clark will learn that being a photo-op is not enough.


About 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

12 thoughts on “Cobb Fallout: Coleman, Clark Say No New IPPs but Refuse to Kill Policy

  1. Snooki Clark won’t call an election because this will be the only time she can be premier. If she calls an election she would be gone so if she sticks to the fixed election date it looks like she is following the rules and she can still be called premier.
    You have to admit that the Liberal government policy on energy conservation has worked quite well since they came into power. Their destruction of the forest industry has closed countless sawmills and pulp mills saving Hydro oodles of Kwh’s, must be part of the Power Smart program!

  2. Peter, I disagree – on both points. The NDP were no bowl of cherries, but to put them on the same level of corruption as the Liberals over the past decade is way out of line. Moreover, it is NOT the bureaucrats that run the show in our parliamentary system. In fact, it’s one person – the Premier – and their advisors. So long as the premier can tear up the nomination papers of any candidate for MLA in their party, they have absolute control. Just look at the very situation we’re discussing here – with BC Hydro. Do CEO Dave Cobb’s comments suggest to you that he and his fellow bureaucrats are running the show? Far from it – they’ve had terrible policies foisted on them by Campbell/Clark and now they face the added insult of being blamed for the inevitable rise of your power bills, when they know damned well it’s due to the Liberals’ IPP policy – one over which they have had zero control all along. And now they’re told 1,200 of them need to lose their jobs because of it. The bureaucrats do not run the show in BC or in Canada under Harper.

  3. The problem is apparent. The solution has been demonstrated right here in BC. Yet sites like this one never ever mention that a direct vote – such as the one that just ended the HST – is the solution. It’s almost as though we came awake from the matrix for a moment, and all they want to do is put us back to sleep.

    It’s not rocket science, our government is obviously less clear sighted (or more corrupt) than the people who would vote against the northern pipeline, smart meters and definitely private power. And it is the only way we will return to prosperity. Let your representative do the province’s business in Victoria, but put the binding questions right on the ballot. Rafe’s way is the old, outmoded and proven corrupt paradigm. We need a direct vote on issues if for no other reason than to combat the corruption which inevitably rises to the top in faux democratic systems like ours. Almost every country in the world which runs on this system – representative neoliberal ‘democracy’ backed by private funding for government – is headed down the tubes. Two small changes:
    1. A public bank for gov. debt
    2. Let the people decide the issues.
    Well Rafe?

  4. we unfortunetly we have no choice in an election the
    liberals are corrupt and the ndp is not far behind.all
    the people we elect do whatever they want to do.
    and of course the bureacrats call the shots and nobody
    can get rid of these overpaid roaches.

  5. I think Minister Coleman is suggesting that govenment will change the 42,600 GWh that BC Hydro is required to base its planning on. The 42,600 is based on the lowest sequence of water years ever experienced (in the 1940s as I recall).It probably will not remove the policy of self-sufficiency or rescind the direction not to rely on Burrard for any energy for planning purposes. The future of the so called insurance of the 3,000 GWh/year is also uncertain.
    All of which suggests that the Clark government is still firmly hooked on Gordo’s IPP Kool- aid, and that we can expect a lot more creeks to be diverted and wind turbines erected in the years to come.

  6. I wonder how Christy liked the slap on the a$$ for the HST B.S….now call an election and get the punch in the head….there are more people in this province sick to death of lieing in govt’,and big buisness and gov’t Friends reaping all of the benifits,,,,time for a change? I”D SAY

  7. Never in the history of Canada, has there been a more corrupt and evil government as, The Campbell/Clark BC Liberal Slime Family.

    Christy has had a lot of new info on her, regarding Campbell’s theft and corrupt sale of the BCR. Why does BC end up with, all the corrupt and evil politicians? Now the s.o.b’s are saying, they will TRY and bring the PST back, by March 31/2013. It sure in the hell, didn’t take that long, to force the HST scam on us.

    What do we citizens do? Do we do, extreme civil disobedience? Should we take our rivers back, tear out the mess and try to put the rivers eco systems back? Repair the river runs for the salmon? Divert the one river back into the lake? The lake water, they had no damned right stealing.

    Should we not tear out, the dirty diseased fish farms? Norway has not one lick of respect for Canada’s eco systems. They even had to gall to divert a river, into their dirty tar sands projects. They are being taken to court on that one. Norway should be banned from Canada.

    When will enough, be enough with this, crap BC Liberal government? Enbridge pipeline? Dirty oil tankers? What?

  8. These people are EVIL! There is no other answer why they would sell out their own people for huge profits for a few.

  9. I’m not entirely certain if this article is directly related to the BC Hydro situation, but the last 3 paragraphs reminded me of it, so I’m sharing anyway. Maybe you can use it (though frankly, I’ve seen no evidence that anything anyone says here is ever noticed).

    The paragraphs:
    The people of Greece have been told that the privatization of their public sector is the only solution. And those of Italy, Spain and Portugal are facing the same threat.

    They should look to Iceland. Refusing to bow to foreign interests, that small country stated loud and clear that the people are sovereign.

    That’s why it is not in the news anymore.

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