Hydro Chief’s Leaked Comments Trash IPPs – What Will Clark Do Now?


I have called it the Campbell/Clark government because that’s what it is. Premier Clark was in on the beginning of most policies including the disastrous energy plan that sees private power companies (IPPs) destroying our rivers to produce power for BC Hydro which it doesn’t need and must take anyway, bringing Hydro to the brink of bankruptcy. (In the private sector BC Hydro would be bankrupt, except as a Crown monopoly it can always pass its grief over to us the ratepayers.)

You could have blown me over with a feather when I read in the Weekend Sun excerpts of an internal conference call in which Dave Cobb, president of Hydro, condemns the government’s IPP policy. A recording of the call – which occurred August 12, on the heels of the recent panel report on the utility’s financial situation – was leaked to the paper. Cobb pulled no punches, detailing his concerns with the government’s exaggerated “self-sufficiency” and “insurance” requirements:

“‘If it
doesn’t change, it would be hundreds of millions of dollars per year
that we would be spending of our ratepayers’ money with no value in
return,’ said Cobb. ‘The way the self-sufficiency policy is defined now…would require us to buy far more long-term power than we need…I think they’re going to make a major change there, which will
significantly reduce the amount of power we will be buying from
independent power producers and anybody else,’ he said. ‘Government has
to make a change.'”

I found myself asking why this headline story, so clear about the IPP financial millstone around Hydro’s neck, was not reported after the panel report and why, last week the once intrepid columnist, Vaughn Palmer, dealt with this panel report, noting Hydro’s financial grief at considerable length without even mentioning IPPs.
In the Weekend Sun report, much coverage and a picture of Paul Kariya dealt with the responses of his Clean Energy Association of BC and their appallingly shallow concerns. Whatever these industry apologists may say their concerns are, you can be sure that the interests of British Columbia are not amongst them. The Clean Energy Association is the private industry in drag, and refuses to tell us where they get their funding. NB the name – with the clear influence of George Orwell’s 1984 the association calls itself precisely what it is not.
It’s hard to believe that Minister Coleman had any advance warning of this conversation – it was, after all, a leaked conversation and at any rate, deliberately leaking a policy change of this unbelievable proportion is not Coleman’s style.

What’s the government going to do now? It can hardly fire Mr. Cobb and deny the truth of what he said for no one would believe that for a moment. Clearly, Mr. Cobb didn’t make this all up but was concerned that his staff would be caught by surprise and wanted to give them a heads up. If Mr. Coleman doesn’t fire Mr. Cobb, he might just as well have made the statements himself.

That this is the government’s unannounced (yet) policy makes political sense, insofar as one can make sense out of the appalling Campbell/Clark energy policy because the policy will kill them in the next election and they know it. It also explains why (I have this on the best authority) the industry big wigs were lower than a snake’s belly when they got the panel report last week and why it was when I met Mr. Kariya coming out of the CBC last Monday morning, he was so defensive and uneasy.

One thing’s for sure – the cat’s out of the bag, and to mix metaphors, the contents of Pandora’s box can never be put back.

The question for the Premier is obvious and simple: What now, madam?
The issue is in the public domain and will be a big time political issue.
Here’s where Premier can separate herself from the disgraced Gordon Campbell and put her own brand on her government while stealing a march on the NDP.
It will take guts to do what is right and Ms. Clark must bite the bullet and announce the end of IPPs and clearly state that it’s for two reasons: the environment and the Energy Plan itself.

She does this in several ways:

  1. She revives the Ministry of Environment, giving true power back to it – naming someone tougher than Barry Penner, who was indeed the longest serving Environment Minister and, sad to say, the worst. The issuance of permits to desecrate the environment must be returned to the Environment Ministry to be dealt with by a minister who has the courage to care about the environment before considering those who want the permit.
  2. She must announce that henceforth the Precautionary Principle, when dealing with those who need permits to encroach upon the environment, will be paramount. This principle states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action. No longer must the onus be on the public or environmental organizations or their spokespeople.
  3. She must squarely face the fact that Hydro is in deep trouble and can only be saved by abandoning private power.

This is hardly the full picture because of the Ministry of Transportation running roughshod with highways over wildlife preserves and agricultural lands, and the proposed pipelines and tanker traffic.

The premier’s eminent grise, Patrick Kinsella, will be appalled but Ms. Clark, who has active political antennae, knows that Families and Children will not be the big election issue but that BC Hydro and the environment will be.

Ms. Clark, in order to extract the government from the devastating policy of Campbell must understand and face the hell, fire, brimstone from her corporate backers and lose election funds if she does what I suggest.

The decision will mark clearly whether the premier is just another pretty face or a leader the people of BC and generations to come will mention her name in gratitude… or if she remains a Campbell clone and one can fairly call her administration the CampbellClark government.


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 rafeonline.com.

19 thoughts on “Hydro Chief’s Leaked Comments Trash IPPs – What Will Clark Do Now?

  1. Well said Mr. Mair,

    And I must say I really miss hearing your voice on the radio. With that loss, I dare say, it felt like BC became a whole lot less safe.

    Good day Sir,

    God speed, look forward to your triumphant return to your radio show soon.

  2. Thanks for your views Rafe. (A tip of the cap to the late great socialist W.A.C. Bennett) To quote; Dave Barrett 2010.

  3. Christy Clark is out of her depth.
    She is almost certainly being ‘run” by special interests.
    The sky is falling & she has no where to go.
    When all the finger pointing is over; how the heck are we going to put it all back together?
    Could the Government of the day tax the water up stream of the run of river generators?

  4. Justanold – one addendum to my conservation comment: You suggest the reason we waste so much electricity is that the price for our traditional public power is too low to incentivize conservation. Okay – but if we chose to strategically raise power bills to this end (within reason), and it’s PUBLIC POWER, then the increased profits that result flow back into Hydro or the province’s coffers. We can decide to use those resources to further conservation through programs that increase the energy efficiency of households and businesses – or for other green initiatives like public transit, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. But when those profits are PRIVATE, they go straight to the shareholders of GE and Ledcor and we lose that opportunity…In any event, the jig is up on this industry – many in the public have long known this, and finally the mainsteam media is showing signs of getting it. We now know too that BC Hydro’s CEO gets it – even if he lacks the testicular fortitude to say it in public. At any rate, the sooner we see the backside of this $50 Billion fraud and the government that let it happen, the better for the people and environment of BC.

  5. Justanold, you’re simply rehashing the oldest, most bogus IPP defense in the book. The cost of new IPP power compared with electricity from heritage dams IS relevant IF WE DON’T IN FACT NEED NEW POWER – especially IPP power, which we can’t store and comes predominantly at the worst time of year – i.e., Spring, when our dams are at their fullest, our power needs at their lowest, and the cost of power for import also generally at its cheapest. You say no apples to oranges; I say I’ll stick with the apples and forget about the oranges – we don’t need them and they cost too much; and they’re PRIVATE – unlike our legacy dams – which means we pay for them through our power bills, yet at the end of those 30-40 year contracts we have nothing to show for it. In fact, the whole reason we have the benefit of this affordable public power today is because 50 years ago WAC Bennett had the vision to finance and build these assets publicly (at a fraction of the financing costs of the private route too), so today we own them outright. Your one point I don’t disagree with is that we need to focus on conservation – another reason to scrap IPPs.

  6. You cannot buy new shoes for the price of the old ones. I think you know that but ignore it. Of course the IPPs are more costly than our 40 year old hydros.

    The gap will now be filled with fossil power from Alberta and Centralia, more greenhousing etc, etc.

    And if Hydro (which is us) is broke, its because we are not paying the true cost of new energy. Its the best way to reduce demand.

    But then , reducing our demand would be assisted by smart meters, and you don’t want that either.

    So suggest something instead of whining at everything.

  7. Right on Rafe,if it wasn’t for yourself ,Damien and Alex Tsakumis we would be getting no truth on political or environmental issues…keep up the good work guys,and thank you

  8. As I see it, Christy Clark and her caucus have a real dilema on there hands. If she does as Rafe suggests, she will be throwing the entire BC Liberal caucus under the bus simply because they condoned the path dictated by Gordon Campbell. For them to support a reversal on IPPs and the Smart Meter program would do nothing but highlight the fact that they refused to do the bidding of their constituents that they professed to do before being elected. I can’t see any of them falling on their swords and admitting that they were instrumental in fleecing the people of BC of mega millions of dollars for the next couple of generations. They have to either stick by the decisions they supported or join Barry Penner in the unemployment line.

    Our political system stinks. Our governance stinks. And nothing will change until such time as the electorate gets their collective heads out of the sand and starts to pay attention. It is time that we realized that when we mark our X during an election, we are doing so for not only ourselves, but our children, grandchildren and those that will follow. They will be the ones that have to deal with the legacy we leave for them.

  9. Thank you Rafe for bring the truth to the public.Please help us stop the roll out of Smart Meters.Our atmosphere is so polluted with electro magnetic fields that it is becoming unlivable.There are people having to leave their homes from cell towers and now they want to add more B2 carcinogen to our home .This is murder in the first degree since they now know that EMF can cause cancer and they are forcing it on us

  10. The LIberals have been using BC Hydro for their private agenda in more ways than IPP’s, which are absolutely horrendous. What about the surveillance control communications computer they’re calling the “Smart” Meter? That’s another Clean Energy Act debacle and it needs to be stopped as well, under full review and public hearing. BC Hydro has been used and abused and it’s time to stop as the abuse by LIberals reaches into every single person’s home without their consent. That’s another place to apply the much needed Precautionary Principle. Keep calling it like it is, Rafe – I hope Christy Clark reads your column and takes some better advice than she has in the past. Perhaps she will give you a call and you can set her straight????

  11. Evil Eye, please don’t despair. Can’t you smell it? Spring is around the corner…Global Spring. I just about fell off my chair when the Vancouver Sun broke this story. I like to think that things have turned a corner here, there is no putting this genie back, as Rafe so eloquently points out. We need to keep these stories on the front page, where they belong. I’ll be sharing, if I may?

  12. I am relieved to know that something about the negative effects of Independent power projects was reported in the Vancouver Sun. I have realized from talking to people I know, that there are many British Columbians that have no idea what is going on. This is frightening because it is not only BC Hydro that is being privatized by the Campbell/Clark Government it is also water rights on BC rivers. There are apparently hundreds of applications on just about every viable river and stream in British Columbia, and local Governments have had their power removed by Bill 30. I have been straining my brain for some way to help get this information out, but the best I had thought of was to convince my daughter and her partner who live in Vancouver to hit the streets with placards and pamphlets( I haven’t told them this yet) . I quit buying the Vancouver Sun because of their poor reporting on what really is going on, so thanks again Rafe for your good reporting. It would be grand to see this become an election issue that everyone is aware of.

  13. A lot of Campbell’s thefts and corruption, are being exposed. His corrupt sale of the BCR. Also his theft of our rivers. Thank you Rafe, you work very hard to save this province from, becoming a polluted wasteland. I appreciate all the writers of, The Common Sense Canadian.

    Harper and Campbell have other pollution plans for BC. They have worked together for quite some time. The dirty oil sands pipeline. The dirty oil tankers from, China, the U.S. and England, if Campbell can force the dirty oil onto Europe, who knows how many tankers there could be? They also worked on, oil and gas wells, to be drilled off BC’s coast. The Prosperity Mine expansion.

    Harper is rabid for money. He is spending billions on his jets, billions on ships, and billions on his prisons. That is all he cares about. He is shoving, health care and meat inspection, onto the provinces. He wants nothing to do with the citizens. He just wants our money, for his own gratification. He badly wants to be a big wheel, on the International scene. That’s why Campbell is too push, the dirty oil onto Europe. Harper wants all of that glory. He will pollute, the entire planet for his own glory.

  14. I’m not as polite as Rafe is.

    I do believe, if I were Christy, I would put the turd, right on Campbell’s plate, that’s where it rightly belongs.

    Christy had the opportunity, to clean up Campbell’s, horrendous, corrupt mess. She is the leader of this province. Why she is blindly following Campbell’s corrupt, evil footsteps, blows me away. What good is Falcon? He too, is following Campbell and Hansen’s mess of the HST. Can he not come up with a sensible solution, that wouldn’t kill the people and this province. To hell with Harper and Campbell. The BC people made no deal with the devil. We said, NO to the HST. So, suck it up Harper, you aren’t looking too great yourself. Lies to Europe, trying to con those country’s into believing, the dirty tar sands oil, is clean energy.

    Shame on you Harper. You have dirtied and fouled Canada’s good name. A newspaper as far away as Australia said, how badly democracy is being eroded in Canada. The Dutch people, are extremely sad, to see what is happening to Canada. They loved our young Canadians soldiers, who liberated them. The only friends Harper has is, Columbia, Equador, and the other corrupt S.A. country’s. AND Campbell.

  15. And, Campbell the evil corrupter, was rewarded by Harper the evil corrupter, for thieving BC blind. The pair of them should be kicked out of our country, and sent to Columbia. They will fit right in. Although, corruption in England, has caught up with, the corruption in Canada.

    We did know Campbell was working for Harper. That was pretty hard to miss. The pair of them worked hand in hand, to thieve BC right down to the bare bones. Campbell thieved and sold our rivers. I don’t need to explain that to anyone. The results are obvious. Campbell, Hansen and Harper, colluded on the HST long before the BC election. Their intention was, to force the HST onto the people, right from day one. Neither Harper nor Campbell have any ethics or morals.

    I read. Harper gave a speech in New York, at the Council of Foreign Relations. Sept. 25/2007. This has been Harper’s evil agenda all along.

    I am no longer proud to be a Canadian. Harper and Campbell have dirtied and fouled Canada’s good name.

    We were warned what would happen, if Harper won a majority. Our nightmare has come true. Even the Americans say, Harper’s election win was rigged.

  16. The Liberal so-called “clean energy” plan rips off taxpayers and the environment. The Independent Power Producers have been allowed to trash B.C. rivers and are now collecting a lucrative guaranteed income for 20 to 30 years . Taxpayers are funding this lucrative scam by paying more than double the open market rates for electricity. This rich subsidy under the guise of “self-sufficiency” has left BC taxpayers with contractual bligations to the Independent Power Producers for more than $30 billion over the next 20 to 40 years.

  17. C/C’s record is just appalling, BC Rail, BC Hydro, BC Ferries, all the billings from however many government departments, all sold out. BC Gas’ sale went right under the radar. Who owns the timber rights now?
    We need a change in government, this drain has to be stopped.

  18. It seems that Penner is the first of Captain Clark’s crew to jump ship, leaving the rest of the mutinous crew to contend with a rapidly sinking ship.

    It is more apparent than ever that Gordon Campbell was engaged in dismantling BC, so it would be easy pickens for his American friends South of the boarder. First BC Rail, the environment, BC Hydro, everything that made BC, BC. Even when his crew mutinied, he was cast adrift with a gem of a golden handshake, from Quisling Harper, for a stint being high Commissioner in the UK.

    Captain Clark is nothing more than a wet squib and has become on par with the NDP’s former leader, what ever her name was.

    We live in an age of deceit and corruption on such a scale that I do not think we can recouver. We have been politically castrated and there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

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