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.


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

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