BC Hydro

The Pundit’s Progress

In the archives of this blog, readers might find one, two or more blusters directed at very experienced—and highly visible—professional pundits.

For example, I wrote that both Vaughn Palmer and Keith Baldrey had reported carelessly on the regulator’s rejection of BC Hydro’s Long Term Acquisition Plan. Both appeared to base reporting on inaccurate talking points obtained from interested parties rather than the actual BC Utility Commission decision.

In the case of Global TV, coverage of this important matter was so badly informed that, even a week later, a news anchor wrongly reported that the regulator’s decision was primarily aimed at stopping development of green power projects in British Columbia.

I also claimed that both Palmer and Baldrey had, for some time, invested too little energy and attention to turpitude underlying the disposition of BC Rail and its valued land banks. Who knows if that story will ever see the full light of day because powerful forces aim to keep evidence from public view. Without a vigorous and resourceful press, corrupt politicians have free rein in this and other fiduciary failures.

However, having recounted those unfavorable appraisals, I want to specifically applaud some recent work of the very same pundits. This past week, Keith Baldrey caught my attention in a television report from the Legislature. It was uncompromisingly critical of the dissolute Liberal government in Victoria. Baldrey, writing his weekly column for Canwest’s community newspapers, follows up and starts with this:

There is a rising stench enveloping the B.C. Liberal government right now, and it shows no sign of disappearing anytime soon.

There are numerous reasons for this growing cloud, and most of them are tied to the issues of credibility, truthfulness and transparency.

Vaughn Palmer also pulled few punches in recent days:

. . . Minimal disclosure was all but confirmed as official policy during the recent budget lock-up when reporters were rebuffed when requesting the kind of information that had been available in the past.

. . .Meanwhile, every day brings new disclosures, new controversies. Last week it was cuts in grants to charities and arts groups. This week, school sports and parent advisory councils. As news emerges piecemeal, the Liberals’ own agenda is derailed repeatedly.

. . . So the Liberals stumble onwards and mostly downwards. On the days when they aren’t struggling to explain the botched deficit projection, they scramble to justify the nickel-and-diming of programs they once touted.

Hard to think these guys pride themselves on their news management skills. These days they have trouble even keeping the excuses straight.

It’s fair to complain that hard coverage 44 months before the next election doesn’t excuse softball journalism preceding the May general election. However, we don’t know what licenses or limitations the employers impose on its commentators. We can guess, perhaps not with accuracy.

And, we should be aware that overall news-gathering policies will always be determined by corporate self-interest. A Vancouver Sun editorial published September 10 is a partisan defence by Liberal apologists who probably don’t even appreciate the irony of their own words:

When it comes time to vote, we pick leaders who make choices that reflect as closely as possible the values we hold. So we need to get as clear a view as possible of both what is being lost and what is being saved so we can judge for ourselves whether wise choices are being made.

Yes, media minions, we do need as clear a view as possible. And, you should focus on giving it to us, without interruption, confusion or hesitation.

4 replies »

  1. Norman, you again made the same error as in another blog post.

    BCUC very clearly said that Burrard Thermal is available to fill in the energy deficit.

    Now, BC Hydro is a net importer of 14% of its power, mostly from coal fired plants in Alberta and gas fired plants in Washington.

    So Palmer was correct to say that we will be ramping up Burrard Thermal to make up for the deficit. After all, power does not get generated in perpetual machines, you know.



  2. Not true. If the case you, or other BC Liberal supporters, wish to make is so strong, why rely on misinformation? You must act out of ignorance or self-interest, or you would aim to present all information honestly, fairly and completely.

    Burrard Thermal never has been used regularly to provide continuous power to the grid and BCUC does not order or imply that BC Hydro should now do that. It has been there and will remain as a potential emergency provider of power in rare circumstances.

    According to GreenPolicyProf:

    “. . . the Commission was very critical of the type of analysis BC Hydro presented: “BC Hydro acknowledges that this conclusion was not derived from simple factual analysis . . . “

    My comment about misinformation applies to your implication that BC is a net importer of power.

    Damien Gillis provides useful analysis:

    “. . . government and industry spokespeople try to get away with a technicality, saying that BC Hydro is a net importer – ignoring that BC Hydro isn't the full picture of our public power system in BC and that when you factor in the other pieces, we are typically a net exporter as a province.

    . . . we know we were a net exporter of electricity to the US 10 out of 14 years from 1995-2008.

    We must remember that our imports and exports are not a reflection of an imbalance in the power we have vs. our needs, but rather of a conscious business decision to trade power on the spot market so as to make a profit for the people of BC . . .

    Mr. Hansen and his government misleadingly tell us we are a net importer of power to bolster their false argument that we are not energy self-sufficient – that without relying on these imports from Alberta and the US we wouldn't have enough power for our needs, thus we need private power producers to fill the gap. Hogwash!

    . . . even if we did have a self-sufficiency problem, these private river power operators couldn't solve it because the majority of the power they produce comes in Spring, when our supply from our large dams is highest and our demands lowest – so we do not need and cannot use this private power, nor can we store it for a later time. Thus this power is demonstrably for export – it's just that, as the hapless middleman, we are subsidizing the private power companies by buying their power at 2-3 times the market value and flipping it at a loss! Therein lies the rub.”


  3. Norm, The sign of a good pundit is when the pundit accepts that other pundits have punted the ball in the correct direction after pointing out the they have missed badly on a previous punt. I agree with your comments on Vaughan Palmer and Keith Baldry, long may your most interesting and informative punditry continue.


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