Vaughn Palmer’s wrongheaded defense of private power projects


Wow! The Vancouver Sun has been a-burst with environmental issues, two on the front page February 6.

Let’s first back up to Vaughn Palmer’s ill thought out column of February 4. It’s nice to see Palmer has finally sacrificed his virginity and tackled the Independent Power Producers’ (IPP) obscene contracts foisted by the government on BC Hydro. Before we rejoice at Palmer’s brain transplant we must recognize what tripe this column was.

Palmer defends gross overpayments to IPPs on the grounds that the contracts were granted at a time when electricity prices were much higher, which ignores the standard practice of tying contracts to prices at the time of sale. Certainly that would make matters riskier but that’s the name of the game in business.

Then Palmer attacks us skeptics by making the case that we will welcome these IPPs when we are short of energy, which Palmer sees in the immediate future. This is not so as Economist Erik Andersen has demonstrated. (You would see more of Andersen’s work if the Fraser Institute’s house organ, The Sun, would publish his work).

Mr. Andersen recently wrote in a letter intended for The Sun, but unpublished thus far, “When one sees value in a deliberately created surplus of anything costly, it can only be from ignorance of need. For decades, BC Hydro has an unbroken record of estimating provincial demand well in excess of recorded demand. The BCUC (BC Utilities Commission) recognized this several times in the last century but BC Hydro keeps coming back.”

Palmer also ignores the huge debt to IPPs by reason of these shameful overpriced contracts, which stand at over $50 BILLION and rising. It doesn’t seem to bother “Poodle Palmer” that if in the private sector BC Hydro would be in bankruptcy protection at best and that as of now BC residents owe about $16,000 per man, woman and child because of Hydro’s massive $70 BILLION in debt and contractual obligations.

Naturally, Palmer ignores the huge environmental cost of these projects; moreover, he neglects to mention that the IPPs are mostly out-of-province and out of Canada companies who – and these dots connect – take all the profits straight out of the pockets of ratepayers who will be dinged with ever-increasing rates to cover the costs of these government-cosseted corporate leeches.

The lead headline in The Sun of February 6 leads into a report that the federal government is ill-prepared for a tanker spill and talks about such a thing as “unlikely” – even though the Department of the Environment, scarcely made up of tree-huggers, assert that spills are a certainty.

That’s two certainties – a spill is certain and there is no way it can be cleaned up.

In Ancient times, Cato the Elder ended every speech to the Roman Senate, whatever the subject, with “Carthago delenda est” (Carthage must be destroyed”.) Eventually the Senate got the idea and Carthage was destroyed.

We must imitate Cato and wherever appropriate pronounce the essential truth about oil spills from pipelines or tankers: NOT IF BUT WHEN!


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

1 thought on “Vaughn Palmer’s wrongheaded defense of private power projects

  1. Tuesday, 12 February 2013 18:36 posted by Brenda Guiled

    Rafe, your habit from long ago right-wing politics is showing all over an otherwise good piece.

    Name-calling, slagging, personal putdowns … it’s grade 8 schoolyard tactice.

    In social media exchanges I have, I note how often the right-wingers/neo-cons resort to low blows from the start and throughout their comments. They bat 1000 eery time.

    Tedious. Childish. Please, Rafe, you’re one of the guys in the white hats now. They outfox the others AND they stay on the up and up – doing the right things for the right reasons, IN THE RIGHT WAY.

    Thanks – Brenda

    Friday, 08 February 2013 20:08 posted by Burgess

    This appears almost a repeat of the ‘privatization’ of California’s electrical system. The Colorado dams produced power at a rate private industry could not compete with – the result? Create a crisis shut down ‘private power generators – brown outs and fear. Californians now pay through the nose. Who got rich? Looks like the same folks that are bankrupting BCHydro with run-of-river. The Vancouver Sun had an article years ago and the author(s) intimated it would happen here in BC. Looks like the carpetbaggers behind the liberals are working the same scenario for the destruction of BC Hydro. And California is still refusing to pay for the power BC sent to them during this crisis.

    Friday, 08 February 2013 16:51 posted by Rod McNabb

    I love it, Rafe: NIBW!!

    I wonder if there is any legal means by which these obscene IPP contracts can be voided, perhaps because the negotiations and contracts were undertaken by person/s of unsound mind acting beyond their authority?

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