BC Hydro

Overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks…

Hunter S. Thompson:

hunter-s `50As far as I’m concerned, it’s a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity.

One ubiquitous messenger from the Legislative Press Gallery wrote a column that provided, shall we say, an incomplete account of the management change in BC’s largest public utility. It included:

…McDonald departs with a severance package of half a million dollars and every likelihood that she’d land a position elsewhere that will make Horgan look ridiculous.

She was chosen CEO via a headhunting process that the board itself approved. In annual reviews, board members endorsed her performance for three years running.

…firing one of the most accomplished women in the provincial public sector…

The Site C committee of the Hydro board has met regularly since construction started two years ago. The most recent meeting was in early June, at which time Hydro was still reporting the overall project to be on time (despite delays in some segments) and on budget.

…But if the New Democrats think that Hydro and its directors are hiding anything greater, they could start by making public the minutes of the oversight committee so everyone can see.

I suggest that current members of BC Hydro’s board of directors are not the best sources for a writer reporting on McDonald’s achievements. Palmer notes directors were appointed by Liberals but doesn’t mention that most of the utility’s recent directors were financial contributors to the party and all were subject to directions of the cabinet. Political loyalties obviously shape the narrative.

We can though assess the ex-CEO’s accomplishments by examining the record.

Jessica McDonald was the person who:

  • helped lead BC Hydro from financial strength to equity-starved instability,
  • condoned accounting trickery to hide the utility’s disastrous financial results,
  • presided over residential electricity price increases about ten times the size of those in the preceding two decades (see chart below),
  • allowed private power purchases to rise by $50 million a month in a time of surplus power when both demand and export markets were soft,
  • approved BC Hydro asset growth of $12 billion while the utility’s internal production of electricity declined,
  • allowed BC Hydro staff to lie consistently to taxpayers about growing demand for electrical power in British Columbia,
  • initiated Site C construction with no external review and no demonstrated need for this new power source,
  • etc.

Sarah Cox, a journalist not of the type Hunter S. Thompson described, wrote very different words than Vaughn Palmer:

BC Hydro’s latest Site C report reveals that — well before May’s provincial election and Clark’s headline-grabbing claims — the hydro project was already late meeting three out of eight “key milestones” for 2017 and was at risk of being late for three more.

…The report lists some reasons for Site C’s late and “at risk” milestones. Among them are a 400-metre long tension crack on an unstable Peace River embankment and delays — prior to March 31 — in awarding contracts.

One key milestone, a new civil contract award for the dam’s generating station and spillways, was five months behind schedule by March 31. A milestone to complete a road on the north bank, where the tension crack appeared in February, was 13 months behind by the end of March.

…Meanwhile, Site C’s main civil works contractor — a partnership that includes the Alberta corporation Petrowest, Korea’s Samsung C&T and a Canadian subsidiary of the Spanish conglomerate Acciona — has “experienced delays on several of their critical path activities, requiring a re-sequencing of planned work,” according to the BC Hydro filing.

…BC Hydro declined to answer questions about the report…

Yes, why answer questions that might be asked by diligent journalists when selected information can be released later through a trusted and uncritical media ally who won’t draw attention to the experiences of other Canadian dam builders, or the possible risks of Site C becoming a similar economic disaster.

Ms. Cox provides that information:

…The bill for the Muskrat Falls dam — called a “boondoggle” by the CEO in charge of building it — jumped by another $1 billion last month and is now pegged at $12.7 billion. The dam will produce roughly three-quarters of Site C’s energy.

The price tag for the Keeyask dam — which will produce 695 megawatts of power compared to Site C’s projected 1,100 megawatts — jumped by $2 billion this year, to $8.7 million.

Muskrat Falls’s cost is expected to add an extra $150 onto the monthly hydro bill of every household in Newfoundland and Labrador. Rate increases for Manitobans as a result of the Keeyask dam’s escalating price tag have not yet been determined, although news reports say they will be in the double digits.

Former BC Hydro CEO Marc Eliesen has called Site C a “big white elephant” that will lead to significant hydro rate increases…

Another view of McDonald was expressed at the Vancouver Sun webpage by commenter Helen Wildman:

Accomplished? Visionary ?This liberal flunky had a BA and zero experience in the energy sector – she might be visionary to her corporate masters – and if she lands another corporate job it will just be due to connections not any particular abilities( which is how she landed her previous ones ). Perhaps the Vancouver sun can make her editor- in – chief, – you don’t seem to need any particular skills to work there,as long as you are a liberal mouthpiece and supporter & able to produce liberal spin . The only credentials / skills Jessica seems to have – she ‘ll fit right in. And if she is the most accomplished woman in the public sector as Vaughn suggests then we are in serious trouble because it seems then that education and skills mean nothing and all you need are connections – ( what a slap in the face to all really accomplished women, that comment of palmers ) Good riddance and Good on Horgan for firing her !! I applaud this move.

In April, Bob Mackin, BC’s most effective political reporter, described Jessica McDonald as a BC Liberal insider who runs the utility “under chair and patronage appointee Brad Bennett. Her ex-husband, Mike McDonald, is the Liberal campaign manager and a senior associate at BC Hydro contractor Kirk & Co.

theBreaker.news has further information..

per kwh res sales rate 30 years 480

One of the BC Chamber of Commerce’s favorites, an Edge of the Ledge veteran, also mourned McDonald’s removal from the Liberal gravy train:


Integrity BC provided a recap for the financial rewards McDonald earned from public service. It’s incomplete but the total for 2015-2017 will certainly exceed $2 million.

integrity mcdonald 640

22 replies »

  1. Couldn’t agree more with you here Norm. She got the job because she was Christy’s buddy. She has made an incompetent mess of BCHydro which is going to be a huge challenge pix.


  2. Palmer’s column has the hallmarks of a commissioned item arranged by one or more of the BC Hydro directors.

    This is a warning sign to Energy Minister Michelle Mungall and Premier John Horgan to complete the purge in BC Hydro’s boardroom. If you don’t, you will regret it later.


  3. I am waiting for Vaughn Palmer or any other daily newspaper writer to refute Norm’s reporting on 12 years of unchanging electrical consumption. The proof of what is written about Hydro’s sales in this website is in public records so the Liberal loyalists won’t do anything but ignore this vital issue.

    B.C. Hydro is not telling the truth when it says Site C is necessary to serve growing demand of consumers in this province, even if population continues rising at the similar rates. That ought to be a big news story but is not. That shows Vaughn Palmer and his colleagues have an agenda that serves the Liberal Party but not citizens,


  4. If it weren’t for Norm and one or two others we would know very little about what my old legal tummy tells me has some jail terms in it. Will Horgan have a no holds barred judicial Inquiry as he should? I doubt it. He’ll see it as a huge distraction even though that’s mostly avoidable with the right commissioner. He can’t be sure that the rot doesn’t go back before 2001.

    Because of Campbell’s now embarrassing connection to the Federal Liberals the feds will pull out all the stops, especially fiscal to protect him and then there’s the fear that if The NDP do this to the Liberals, the next right wing government will retaliate. I have never seen anything in government look and smell like this. Not by a long shot.

    There is a good way to get a belly laugh out of this and see how our systems work – everyone go to a Liberal member of parliament and ask if they will demand that Mr. Trudeau authorize a federal investigation?

    Tears of laughter have started down my cheeks at the thought of my Liberal lickspittle, Pamela Goldsmith-Jones speaking up on anything if there’s the remotest chance that the guy who gives her $200,000 a year to deliver occasional standard cheques a year to the Lions Bay Village Hall and make sure she attends the largest Remembrance Day service in the riding to lay the uniquitous Federal wreath.

    But we’ll do nothing and pretend that we live in a parliamentary democracy where our hardworking federal political toadies stand up bravely for their constituents.
    See you at the pig flying races!


    • I think Rafe is correct that we’ve never seen—“Not by a long shot”—any benchmark or milestone as astounding as BC Liberal perfidy and breach of public trust (hiding from the public ideologically guided sabotage of public enterprise being, after all, the BC Liberals’ abiding calling card). And I do agree a sweeping purge or witch hunt would be an imprudent distraction for Horgan who will be busy enough repairing the damage to our public enterprise, a challenging necessity even without dwelling on who broke it. But I take exception to the idea that Horgan’s worried about what any inquiry into willful BC Liberal dysmanagement might say about NDP governments of the past.

      First of all, whatever indiscretions Rafe might recall about Harcourt’s or Glen Clark’s governments, they are almost ridiculously, and certainly vanishingly, tiny in comparison to their BC Liberal successors’. I’m sure, if he wasn’t so busy, Horgan would be happy to invite citizens to make those comparisons—there are so many, and the contrast so sharp, the point is soon made clear without further trouble about it. Any public inquiries will be well attended, as such big draws usually are, and the audience may judge for itself.

      Secondly, Horgan holds a position of leadership more magnified than any in generations, what with a partisan (or should I say, “non-partisan”?) accord with assiduously non-ministerial Greens—with their own leader, let’s not forget—and a razor thin parliamentary dynamic that turns on sum-zero-Speaker-relieved calculus. Horgan’ task is to relieve us of the partisan contention of election campaigns, and to lead with relative impartiality for the good of all, the two-party accord and the bubble of parliamentary confidence effectively demanding it. It’s not by shrewd political discernment and assiduousness that the new leader now moves, but rather by the will of the electorate, the necessities of administrative vitality, and the circumstances of the vote and subsequent agreement with the Greens. Making government work is now plainly less partisan and more cooperative—what voters seem to have wanted—and, whether by arms-length or intra-bureaucratic inquiry, will appear nothing short of required—as opposed to favouring—as the new government proceeds.

      Horgan needs to be more like a leader for all, in the circumstances provided by voters’—all voters’—will, more than any BC Leader since WAC Bennett, and therefore must be less doctrinaire or indebted—or wary—of his socialist forebears. He stands upon the shoulders of many, yes, but now holds new ground over which he is his own man with no overshadowing of NDP governments past.

      Nevertheless, I agree that no real impediment exists to finding “the right commissioners” to do the job of any inquiry (which are, by definition, “no holds barred”). I know, it seems refreshingly weird to realize impartiality can be mustered when needed after a BC Liberal reign of cronyism, conflicts of interest, and other breaches of public trust that have become almost ordinary under its defeated regime. Premier Horgan is well advised to avail these opportunities to reinstate ethical oversight while remaining at arms-length and undistracted from the challenges of administration he’ll face every single day as a result of BC Liberal poison.

      It’s ironic that unwinding the antisocial tentacles of extreme ideology and partisanship ends up having to affect administrative impartiality that might seem at times to absolve—or at least commute—the perfidy of the outgoing culprits. However, in the circumstances the electorate provided, it seems wise to avoid being tempted by partisan vengeance and focus instead on what inquiries are required to put public enterprises back on viable footings. Robespierre would have found it too dull, I’m sure.

      But there’s no doubt about the political task at hand: to decease the neo-right saboteurs of democratically sovereign public enterprise. That might sound mighty partisan, but it needn’t be: it is right and proper for political conservatism to fit into the mix, but Horgan—and even ethically minded right-wingers—need to expose, condemn and, finally, terminate the unethical virus of neo-rightism espoused by Gordo’s BC Liberals, all without offending the electorate’s apparent demand for fair and democratic public administration without all the favouritism and corruption and uber-partisanship so unscrupulously adopted by the usurped party of the right.


  5. Tell us Site C has nothing to do with supplying the US water. Once that gate is open, there is no stopping any 3rd party from owning and exporting. NAFTA. Just take a look at who owns or has part ownership in “Canadian” companies. Do you really think they care of “Canadians” interests and pocket books first? I don’t think so. Shut it down now.


  6. All of these Lieberal toadies that were sent down the road should have had a security outfit, along with TV cameras, go their place of employment and had them frog marched out to the street to show they were fired.
    They all should have been forced to sue if they thought they had any severance coming. The real a-holes should have had a transfer to a higher position…say Watson Lake to count vehicle traffic or some other important project just to see if they would show up for work.

    That would have given the MSM something to really foam at the mouth about.


    • Well, it’s pretty good “propa,” isn’t it? I mean, considering that the total BC Liberal bill will include stashed and improperly-accounted debt, “debt obligations,” and the like, surely totalling over $68 billion


    • The Mainstream Media are more than a damned shame, they are a disgrace. How can a media giant, Postmedia, still get away with operating under a sweetheart contract with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producets? The Toronto Globe and Mail might as well be. With an independent media, owners like Frank Griffiths and the men and women they hired, no government would have got away with the BC Hydro scandal. Remember, at the start scientists Dr David Suzuki and Dr, Andrew Weaver supported Run of River with IPPs. By the election of 2009 however people like Norm Farrell and Erik Anderson were shouting the terrible truth from the rooftops. Go to youtube for a 2 part interview I did ot Erik Andersen in August 2012. Its all there and not new as the information was taken all around the province, in 2009 election, from town to town, night after night unto exhaustion by Tom Rankin, Danien Gillis, Joe Foy, and myself, under the auspices of the Save the Rivers Foundation founded by Tom and for which I had the privilege of being Spokeperson. Chapter and verse of the entire disgrace, exposed by Norm Farrell and others, was carefully planned by Gordon Campbell. I’m going to say it loud and clear – WE STUCK OUR NECKS OUT A MILE ON THE HUSTINGS AND OTHER PLACES WHILE THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA DID 2x THE SQUARE ROOT OF SWEET FUCK ALL, Everyone must know this. No Sun, Province, Post, Globe and Mail, Global, CBC – NO ONE EXCEPT A FEW PRIVATE CITIZENS!

      The biggest financial scam in BC history, unfolding day by day and the smug, self centred mainstream media didn’t have the guts to breath a word.


      FOR SHAME!!!!!!!


  7. Hats off to you Norm for your zealous work uncovering the tawdry facts about BC Hydro and Christi Clark’s and Gordon Campbell’s.

    BS Baldry, Vague Palmer are nothing more than Liberal spin doctors of the Joseph Goebbels ilk, you know, “repeat a lie often enough and the public will become to believe it.

    A criminal investigation must take place on the actions of those associated with Hydro’s illegalities.


  8. Jessica McDonald got hugely promoted from being a manager in the Ministry of Environment in the late1990s to Deputy Minister to the Premier in 2005, with a brief detour as a consultant in between. . . . really? Only in BC. Shades of Graham Whitmarsh. And good luck trying to figure it out from her “bio”.

    Anyhooow, Jessica left government in October 2009 after laying off hundreds of government staff and flouting the BCGEU contract in a thousand different ways. And then eventually popped up as CEO of BC Hydro. Yep. Trying to stuff through a $10 if not $20 billion dollar boondoggle for power we don’t need.


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