A democratic government is elected to act in the best interest of the people. To my mind, a democratic government serves no other purpose.
But in the British Columbia, we have a government that has rejected outright this principle of public service.
With the passage of Bill 17, the ‘Clean Energy Act’, the BC Liberals are destroying our publicly owned energy system at the expense of ratepayers, while benefitting private power producers. This is a direction that began with the imposition of the BC Liberal Energy Plan in 2002 which opened the door for private power production.
Bill 17 ensures that private power companies can make massive profits while shifting most of the risk on to the backs of BC Hydro ratepayers. Power projects are now being built that do not make economic sense under normal market conditions. But when a company signs an energy purchase agreement with BC Hydro at above-market rates, backed up by BC Hydro’s heritage assets, the economics of these projects change. Suddenly building a river-diversion project that produces only intermittent power on a remote BC river makes a generous profit
Bill 17 eliminates the BC Utilities Commission’s oversight on any power project intended for export. This follows the removal of local government’s ability to decide on the appropriateness of private power projects on local rivers. Who will now get to decide what power projects should go ahead? That decision now rests with Cabinet; the Premier and his appointed ministers.
Bill 17 will re-integrate the BC Transmission Corporation (BCTC) back into BC Hydro, reversing an earlier decision to split up BCTC and BC Hydro. After the split, BCTC set up its own corporate offices, appointed a board of directors and hired its own communications staff. This 5 year failed experiment resulted in the waste of more than $65 million of taxpayers’ money with no benefit to the people of the province.
For decades, BC Hydro has been an excellent example of how a Crown Corporation can serve the people of the province, providing low-cost energy to ratepayers and providing profits to the crown to pay for healthcare and education. Protecting the viability of BC Hydro is clearly in the best interest of the people of British Columbia.
But that’s not the way the BC Liberals work. Premier Campbell does not concern himself with what is best for British Columbians. Instead, his concern is for private interests who want unfettered access to our rivers for their own benefit. And Bill 17 is going to give those private interests exactly what they asked for.
Norm Macdonald is the NDP MLA for Columbia River-Revelstoke
You can reach him by telephone at 250-344-4816 or toll-free at 1-866-870-4188. His constituency office is located at 104, 806 9th Street N, Box 2052, Golden, BC, V0A 1H0. You can also reach him by e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is at www.NormMacdonald.ca