BC Hydro

Punditry rings hollow

I originally published A false notion in June 2010 and repeated it two years later. It came to mind after Postmedia’s senior west coast pundit wrote B.C. Hydro’s Site C promises ring hollow.

I wrote the old article after Vaughn Palmer finally noticed the BC Rail scandal had Liberals mired in rough and unpredictable terrain. Eventually, that party’s operatives used millions in tax dollars to purchase an end to the Supreme Court trial that threatened Liberal rule. But, Palmer and corporate media colleagues chose not to scrutinize and report political intrigues that ended the Basi/Virk trial.

Excepting The Tyee’s Andrew MacLeod, BC’s legislative Press Gallery looked at BC Rail with blind eyes. There had been an ugly stench of corruption and mismanagement when Liberals reversed a pre-election promise and sold BC Rail’s profitable operations to a large financial supporter and began moving the company’s valuable land bank into friendly private hands. The only thing heard from Liberal friendly pundits was, “Nothing to see here, move along folks.”

There is a subsequent parallel.

Newspapers and broadcasters have largely ignored troubles at BC Hydro. Payments of billions of dollars above market value to private power producers has been reported only in alternative media.

BC Hydro’s untruthful claims about rising power demand are unchallenged by corporate media pundits and commentators, MacLeod and Jon McComb excepted.

More than half a billion dollars spent by BC Hydro to benefit two of the Liberals’ largest corporate contributors (Teck & Imperial Metals) hasn’t seemed consequential to Press Gallery found-ins.

Failure to fully report on Site C is another example of inadequate journalism. Despite clear indications that  politically partisan managers of BC Hydro were heading the utility down a costly and destructive path, old media stayed silent. They gave prime space to proponents of Site C but not to people who questioned the project’s existence or its suitability for future power needs.

With the BCUC review underway, Postmedia could no longer echo only the words of Site C proponents. Thus, late in the game, with billions of dollars wasted, Palmer admits that BC Hydro claims “ring hollow.”

However, Palmer’s column discusses only one chapter of the Site C story. He notes budget and spending problems expressed in a Deloitte LLP report prepared for BCUC but skips the consultants’ fundamental examination of whether or not the project is needed.

This is from McCullough Research’s review of the Deloitte’s report:

BC Hydro’s systematic dishonesty about demand underlies the largest spending commitment ever made by any BC government. The provincial utility is also deceptive about energy alternatives. Mitchell Anderson provide evidence.

Those facts should examined by any credible political journalist.

The Site C fiasco reminds me of a cartoon, an old version of which I saw at UBC many years ago.

One of the reasons that independent review is required is that each group involved in a project sees it through its own lens.

Dancers dance, singers sing, builders build and spenders spend. This is natural and expected so we should always listen to contrarians. Then, we must step back, evaluate and answer the question: “Is this project needed and is it the appropriate solution?”

Categories: BC Hydro, Site C

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8 replies »

  1. Thank you Norm for giving us the complete picture. I was giving MSM more credit than deserved. They usually err on the side of their Liberal cronies.


  2. Hello Norm:
    It is gratifying to know that Christie Clark must really be feeling the loneliness that comes from falling from a pedestal of her own design where she once wielded so much power. She could have been a great leader and done great things. Instead, she indulged herself in the trappings of greedy politics. There were so many lies and half truths she spun forcing her caucus to continue to weave the web of fake news and lame media releases. Taxpayers became her personal ATM.
    Mike de Jong, Rich Coleman and Mary Polak and trying to jump start a dying political party that is headed for the recycle bin. May they rust in peace.


    • My take is a bit different. I don’t think Christy designed her own pedestal: she’s just a spotlight spotter, but not just any old spotlight—it has to be one that doesn’t put her in a bad light. I never thought Christy had much of a grasp for policy, but she does tend to get on a roll hearing herself talk—which is why her minders try to keep her sound bites so short.

      Without a scriptwriter she trapped herself in a lie, practiced it over and over on her long walk to the governor’s residence after losing the confidence vote in the Assembly, and hasn’t really explained why she promised not to push for an election (quite inappropriate to do so in the circumstance) when she met with Her Excellency, but did anyway.

      “What can it hurt? I have a right to speak, and maybe I can squeak one more in before they write my political epitaph—I am the premier, after all…”

      And she did get one more in.


  3. The msm, Palmer et al, are simply part of the problem in this province. in my opinion they are about as corrupt as those involved in all the political machinations of this province. But then Palmer and all the other MSM work for corporations and those corporations like to keep their fellow corporations happy and keep their balance sheet, balanced.

    The MSM didn’t want to deal with B.C. Hydro, B.C. Rail, ICBC, B.C. Ferries, corporate soirees for the B.C. Lieberals. As you have written 177 of the top B.C. Lieberals donated $55M and received $15B in contracts, subsidies, and other special favours. Hell, even in Alabama they got tired of the corruption, but it B.C. it just seems to go on and on. when a casino has $15 million or so go through the doors in a month in $20s, you have a problem. what did the B.C. Lieberals do, sit on it. what did the msm do, nothing. Just one big happy family. Truly something must be wrong. Most other politicians would be out there telling their voters how great they were doing, they found this activity going on and were going to put a stop to it. the monitoring they were doing was working. No, everyone kept quiet so somebody must have been benefiting.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The Clean Energy Act ensured that that all the roles involved in that cartoon above were played by BC Hydro and all the key BC Hydro appointments made by the BC Liberals ensured all disciplines brought to bear on the project used the same distorted lens. The public was basically told to sit in the corner and be quiet. That served the BC Liberal’s real goal, which was to enrich as many insiders as possible using public money. But removing independent oversight left projects like IPPs and Site C naked in terms of any rational justification. And us with the bill.

    With regard to the goal of providing a solution to our real energy need, there’s an old adage in problem solving that says it’s a mistake to stop searching at the first solution you find because although it may solve the immediate problem, much better solutions may be available. Hopefully the BCUC will assist in getting us that tire on a single rope.

    As Norm says, dancers dance…etc. Coincidentally, I was listening to a sport talk show yesterday afternoon wherein the statement was made that players play, coaches coach, managers manage, and owners own. Former Canucks assistant general manager Laurence Gilman made the comment that in his experience the problem is that players think they can coach, coaches think they can manage, and managers think they’re owners.

    To which I would add that political pundits think they’re credible journalists, and too many people believe it.

    Luckily, there are people like Norm and Laila who have the ability and the courage to point that out and stick with it through much attempted denigration and diversion by the usual suspects.


  5. The bias of MSM punditry is so, so bad here in BC that the new government simply must prepare and report its findings itself while it wades through an undoubtedly obscured set of public accounting books. As Joe Friday would say, “The facts, Ma’am, just the facts.” (Which we in the know have been getting all along, right on this here site!)

    I can appreciate how careful the appraisal of the province’s finances has to be done now the BC Liberals have been defeated. Shady dealings on one of Rich’s old projects, gambling, has recently been revealed. The ICBC situation revealed just a few weeks back—Yikes! ‘Icky-Picky’ is really pumping the ads about distracted driving lately—must be costing a bundle. I figure it’s the public auto insurer’s last chance to excuse the sad fiscal shape it’s been put in before more responsible appointments are made, in due course, as the new government gets the feel of the road, as ‘t were, without getting distracted.

    Site-C of course was smartly marched to the independent Utilities Commission so we can get the facts fully aired. And we haven’t heard much yet about the costs to the public weal and nature’s benevolence about another dam, this one holding back, for the second time, the all-at-once-drained-once-so-far mine tailings pond. In good time, I expect. What about Jumbo Peaks, the incorporated town with an appointed mayor and council—but a population of zero?

    And we haven’t even forgotten BC Rail yet—or the Civil Forfieture Office—or BC Ferries Services Inc—-or—need I go on?

    But MSM pundits have had it too easy too long, never having to bother with holding the defeated BC Liberal government to account. I expect they’re busy right now honing their defence rhetoric. Heck, maybe they’ve been busy preparing excuses all along for the many indictments to come as the NDP government carefully works through the forensics and before designing a restorative programme and putting things back in proper order.

    The Green-Dippers simply must keep the hits coming. Already the BC Liberal leadership campaign is providing the kind of platform the party is used to, whence the highest rhetorical flights attacking the new government will effuse like a sewer pipe. Already Dianne Watts accuses the NDP of “snatching away” good paying LNG jobs, and thousands of solid, longterm careers at Site-C. And we can be sure it’ll receive its usual “coverage” in the BC Liberal-friendly MSM pundit zone.



  6. The 2 stories (yesterday & today) by Vaughn Palmer do not mention the Liberals. The blame is going to Hydro & BCUC. Deloitte notes the there is doubt of “Hydro’s ability to estimate large contracts” and last paragraph “No question why Hydro wanted the gory details suppressed. No way should the independent regulator cooperate in keeping the public in the dark” . So BCUC is trying to keep the public in the dark?! This is framing a lie in the face of actual facts coming out. The Van Sun printed these 2 stories, but The Province did not mention anything. It could be assumed that the North of BC reads The Province rather than The Sun. The North of BC voted overwhelmingly for the Liberals. Keep the north Liberal base in the dark and then count the votes. Disgusting!!


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