Campbell’s Fiscal Fiasco: $50 Billion Private Power vs. NDP’s $460 Million Fast Ferries


Remember the “Fast Ferries” fiasco, friends?

That cost $460 million and more than any other issue brought the NDP down in 2001. What wastrels! cried the Campbell opposition. “A disgrace!” “Think of all the social programs that suffered!”

Can you imagine what the business community would have said if it had been 10x that, say, $4.6 Billion?

There would have been cries to send Premier Clark to jail! Maybe bring back capital punishment! I can imagine Phil Hochstein, the ever quotable spokesperson for and president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association. Phil can always be counted upon for a spirited speech in favour of capitalism at a hint of the  NDP as a potential government. He would not only be speechless at $4.6 billion, he might well, poor chap, die of apoplexy!

What if the NDP had done 10x10x$460,000,000? Or even worse, say $50 billion and rising? I can’t imagine what poor Phil would do. At the very least he surely would have demanded that all members and suspected members of the NDP – and fellow travelers, of course –  be banished into permanent exile! Are there no stocks in the public square? What’s happened to the prison hulks? Where’s Botany Bay when we really need it?

(Let me say here that I know and like Phil – it’s just that he has become such an eloquent spokesperson for the blessings of capitalism and, dare I say it, a sneering enemy of the left. He’s obviously the industry’s bulls-eye to shoot at if you care at all about the monstrous “rivers policy” of Pinocchio and his pals.)

$50 Billion is a conservative estimate of the amount BC Hydro must pay private power producers (IPPs) for power they cannot use – on a take or pay basis – and must sell at ½ price at best. These sweetheart deals are scarcely with little mom-and pop operations as we’re assured by Pinocchio, but huge out of Province corporations like Ledcor and General Electric; nor are they, as Finance Minister Colin Hansen assures us, harmless little old mills. almost invisible, spinning away, and lighting up all our homes.

These IPP plants, as anyone can see by just going up past Squamish to the Ashlu River, are environmental nightmares; they destroy the fish, thus the ecologies dependent upon the river, and require massive clear cuts to make way for roads and transmission lines.

Many of the larger projects – Bute Inlet, Klinaklini, Upper Pitt, Glacier/Howser – are on hold for indefinite periods because it’s occurred to the companies and the government that the public of BC won’t put up with them, with massive civil disobedience the obvious consequence. Stroll through this website and see Damien Gillis’s filming right around the province and see for yourself what these little Mom and Pop, unobtrusive plants look like when they’re in operation.

The companies and the Campbell government peddled these environmental and fiscal horror stories as “green” projects! In fact, in April 2009, when the NDP put out their platform condemning these projects for what they are, here’s what Phil Hochstein had to say:

“There can be no more damning evidence that the NDP has all but abandoned its green and youth voters in favour of the labour agenda than its opposition to green energy projects.  Heralded by President Obama, and embraced throughout Europe, the development of a renewable energy industry is clearly the social, economic, and environmental opportunity of our generation.  Yet, James and the NDP have come out staunchly in opposition to green energy projects. And why? Because the public unions don’t want any energy, green or otherwise, developed in B.C. unless it is under their control.”

Somehow Phil’s research missed the point that these projects, far from being green, were brown and that the use of that word is just what George Orwell told us would happen in his great book, 1984. It’s “newspeak” on the theory that saying that brown is green often enough the unwary public will accept it.

Free enterprisers like Phil didn’t notice, evidently, that BC Hydro, being forced to buy this “green” power from private power producers, on a “take or pay” basis for power they didn’t need – nor that BC Hydro was forced to buy this private power at double or more what it could sell it for, a sure prescription for bankruptcy.

This isn’t Phil’s fault – I only pick on him because he has so clearly articulated, for the business community, the bullshit the government was peddling.

Folks, it gets worse.

The principal market for this half price sale BC Hydro is forced to put on is California. Remember the beaming Premier looking lovingly into the eyes of Governor Terminator of California, aka Arnold Schwarzenegger, as they pledged their troth? Capitalist eyes wept in happiness at all that ½  price BC electricity heating swimming pools in California.

For this I’m indebted to Jim Quail, Executive Director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Referring to Campbell’s policy he says:

“This strategy has hit a roadblock, created by California’s environmental standards. They classify any run-of-river project rated above 30 Megawatts as non-green. That captures all of the hydroelectricity BC Hydro is buying from IPPs. Spot prices for this stuff are projected in the $35-40 range per MWh over the coming few years, but we will be paying IPPs as much as $120 per MWh. We’ll have to dump the surplus on the spot market for a huge loss. (My emphasis)

Premier Campbell has been lobbying hard to get California to raise its 30 MW limit for premium power, without success so far.Things could get even worse. There is a proposition on the California ballot for November which would suspend that state’s clean energy laws until unemployment drops below 5.5%. That could be several years. If this passes, our surplus IPP power will have no chance of gaining a premium price. There will be no market in California for high-priced ‘clean’ power.”

Even if California changes its mind, BC Hydro is faced with selling power it has been forced to buy at 50 cents on the dollar, tops!
Here’s the score, folks, in the fiscal f#@k-up department: On our left, wearing the pink undies, the NDP gave us Fast Cat ferries that didn’t work, at a loss of $462 million dollars.

On our right, in the blue bloomers, Gordon “Pinocchio” Campbell and his “green power” at $50 Billion, gives us power we can’t use and which must be exported to a market that isn’t there. (Always remembering, of course, that if they don’t go bust first, they might get up to ½ back, except that at  Pinocchio’s insistence BC Hydro continues to enter new contracts!)

Over to you, Phil…


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

3 thoughts on “Campbell’s Fiscal Fiasco: $50 Billion Private Power vs. NDP’s $460 Million Fast Ferries

  1. I read in the business section of the Vancouver Sun awhile back that BC Hydro was set to lose 35 million per year for 20+ years on the Prosperity project that Taseko Mines is awaiting an approval from the feds on that will destroy Fish Lake. A yes approval will mean war, in my eyes.

  2. I was just wondering why this has not been reported in the mainstream media – have you contacted V Palmer or M Smyth? Oh yeah, we are talking about Canwest – Gordo’s consentual media lapdog. I mean this is SERIOUS and the only place I have read about it is on the internet, I get both papers and watch the CBC and CTV news and I have not heard a word about this! MSM DO YOUR JOBS !!

  3. Rafe- You forget the real reason that the IPP push continues and is supported by Gordo. Every single IPP contract awarded is to an IPP who has made directly and /or indirectly a substantial donation to the BC Liberal Party. A great political fundraising idea. Sell off a junk of the provinces assets in return for a donation.
    $25,000 will get you a million!
    I’ll vote for who ever will promise to lay charges and put this crook behind bars.

Comments are closed.