BC Hydro

Corporate media works for some but not for its audience

Earlier this year, American Bernie Sanders warned us about the failures of corporate media. In How Corporate Media Threatens Democracy, he wrote:

…For years, major crises like climate change, the impact of trade agreements on our economy, the role of big money in politics and youth unemployment have received scant media coverage. Trade union leaders, environmentalists, low-income activists, people prepared to challenge the corporate ideology, rarely appear on our TV screens.

Media is not just about what is covered and how. It is about what is not covered. And those decisions, of what is and is not covered, are not made in the heavens. They are made by human beings who often have major conflicts of interest.

As a general rule of thumb, the more important the issue is to large numbers of working people, the less interesting it is to corporate media. The less significant it is to ordinary people, the more attention the media pays. Further, issues being pushed by the top 1 percent get a lot of attention. Issues advocated by representatives of working families, not so much.

For the corporate media, the real issues facing the American people— poverty, the decline of the middle class, income and wealth inequality, trade, healthcare, climate change, etc.—are fairly irrelevant. For them, politics is largely presented as entertainment. With some notable exceptions, reporters are trained to see a campaign as if it were a game show, a baseball game, a soap opera, or a series of conflicts…

In recent days, Postmedia showed how its partnership with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers affects information circulated:

shill-warning-sign 200This week, aging veterans of the BC Press Gallery demonstrated their loyalties again.

It appears Vaughn Palmer wants to keep Site C construction underway and Liberals absolved of responsibility for BC Hydro’s disastrous situation:

…if the New Democrats do kill Site C, ratepayers would be facing a 10 per cent hike with nothing to show for it…

Palmer wrote that Energy Minister Michelle Mungall was “chippy” but that MLA Tracy Redies, former CEO of Coast Capital Savings Credit Savings Union, demonstrated expertise and “was able to elicit significant information.” He could have added that the information was already on the public record but this was about painting a complimentary portrait of the woman who departed Coast Capital unexpectedly with a huge severance payout after the member-owned bank donated large sums to the BC Liberal Party.

Palmer writes that BCUC “departed from past practice by basing cost comparisons on the low end of the range of Hydro’s load forecasts, instead of going with the middle” but he says nothing about how the commission thought even the low forecasts were too high. Of course, they knew the record of hugely overstated demand growth is long and consistent. Adding that fact might have informed Palmer’s readers in a way that didn’t serve the writer’s purposes.

The Palmer column ends with his belief that Michelle Mungall “perhaps let out more than the New Democrats intended.” Ah yes, if there is a question of competence in management of BC Hydro,  it must be with the NDP minister. After all, she’s had more than three months in the job and Liberals had only sixteen years plus.

Palmer reports that a $4 billion write-off on Site C “would mean a rate increase of about 10 per cent.” That’s terrible but only 1/7 as terrible as the 68% increase since 2009 in the price of power sold in BC by BC Hydro.

Global’s Keith Baldrey makes his Liberal friendly contribution with Can there be a good ending for the Site C dam? He began by writing that:

…euphoria at the NDP convention last weekend…masked some real concerns about the first real, critical test of the fledgling government.

That is the sort of statement one might expect from a commentator who didn’t waste much time observing work of the convention. Delegates who spent hours debating policy positions and more time learning the intracies of new political finance rules, about improved communications, relationship building in rural constituencies and other subjects will be surprised to read they were in a state of euphoria for days.

Baldrey says the NDP Government’s decision to halt or proceed with Site C  is “guaranteed to cost taxpayers an enormous amount of money.” No Keith, the Liberal decision to proceed with Site C – required to keep the lights on in BC, said CEO Jessica McDonald – without review by the BCUC and justified by countless falsehoods, is what will cost taxpayers a truly enormous amount of money, although less than the private power fiasco that has already been a bigger disaster and will continue to cost additional billions of dollars. 

Baldrey asks if Site C power is needed and if there are cheaper forms of energy production available. He answers his own question by writing, “There are no clear, foolproof answers.

Little in life is 100% certain but there is overwhelming proof – taken from BC Hydro’s sales records for the last two decades – that demand has not grown for a very long time, despite population growth of 14.5% since 2004. There is also irrefutable evidence that other forms of energy are less expensive than Site C. Scientific American magazine reported last year the cost of solar power had fallen below five cents a KWh and it has fallen further since that report.

The cost of wind power also has been on a steady downward trend and yet more efficiencies are being implemented.

Alberta, a potential export market has an oversupply of electricity. It opened the Shepard Energy Centre two years ago and the gas fired facility produces power at less cost than Site C. Of course, Liberals prohibited gas-fired power generation in BC, except by IPPs. They  didn’t want a crown corporation burning natural gas in BC for power, they preferred we pay foreign producers to pollute the world by  shipping our gas almost 10,000 km to be burned for power in Asia.

Baldrey raises an idiotic claim that ending Site C would result in new private power producers coming on stream. Huh? To produce more power we don’t need and can only resell at huge losses, at prices we can’t afford?

Baldrey doesn’t bother to tell the real story about IPPs. That would reveal an unfortunate Liberal scheme that has already cost us dearly.

When you’re an activist for vested interests, complete and accurate reports are never offered. These might educate low-information voters that have supported BC Liberals for many years.

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My response in comments to Vaughn Palmer’s Vancouver Sun article:

 

Palmer response 460

20 replies »

  1. British Columbians need only look upstream to the massive WAC Bennett Dam where a minimum of $120 million has been spent trying to stop the mammoth dam from failing. If it fails it will wipe out every dam downstream to Alberta. If it fails Fort St. John could be wiped out!

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  2. If the corporate interest and the Liberal party worked to get Raif fired, maybe it’s time the NDP along with the Greens plus thousands of conncerned citizens did the same to Palmer and Baldrey.

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  3. Zero growth,now negative as of last quarter,for 11 years and to blow 12 billion dollars and sell power at a potential loss after?The only thing growing is the debt.?
    Why is it you never see an annual demand graph from BCHydro Hmmm…?You may not sell to Alberta -they installed a gas turbine ,like the politically neutered burrard thermal.?
    Look and see Keeyask/Muskrat/Bipole3.
    2007-2017
    http://media.commonsensecanadian.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Chart-1.png
    https://thetyee.ca/News/2016/02/11/BC-Hydro-Forecast-Change/

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  4. Let’s put Mike Smyth in that dirty bath water with Palmer and Baldrey. It consoles me to know, that what comes around, goes around. Arlene

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  5. The corporate media, as Norm consistently points out, has wasted no time spinning outrageous, impossible to justify and often contradictory “paradox’s” around not only the machinations of site C, but all the major files their government ineptly managed for 16 years.

    This is a strategy to box in the new government in order for them to simply carry on with the former government’s agenda while simultaneously cleaning up the corruption the former government themselves obviously could never have credibly accomplished.

    As a result the well oiled corporate press gallery continues to direct much of the agenda, and focus of the new government.

    Issues like the costs of not proceeding with Site C being in the Billions are never questioned, the Clark administration’s bold push past any oversight (cost benefit analysis even?) is never pilloried for the stunning incompetence and pork barrelling it illustrated. The list goes on and on across the whole of the current government’s active files.

    The constant drum beat of this propaganda machine has warped not only the average British Columbian’s understanding of their Province’s political priorities but has also already begun to severely handicap the new governing agenda.

    Meanwhile “confidence” among the business and “investment” community (aka – casino money laundering gig) falls with every news story. Yet most all of these stories are generated in the BC Lib spin shop and amplified through their media echo chamber, which in itself is a self perpetuating paradigm resulting in economic gloom and doom that is untethered from reality.

    The full spectrum dominance of these dynamics in BC Politics is handcuffing the large majority who live here and resulting in an ever declining standard of living and quality of life. It seems the people of BC are only here to aid and abet our own fleecing, even when we change the government responsible for such treasonous actions.

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  6. Site C is a waste of money. We can’t afford it and we don’t need it. Remediate the site and use it as farm or ranch land. We are going to need food in the future. Electricity will come from other sources, such as wind and sun and it will be closer to home.

    As to the jobs at Site C, they’re camp jobs which don’t exactly do much for communities and families School maintenance is a few hundred million behind and we need new schools. If B.C. Hydro stops Site C. the cost of remediating the site will most likely cost a couple of billion, then use a couple of billion to improve schools, etc. creating jobs in communities and save the other half which would have been used to build the useless dam.

    If Iran pays their citizens a subsidy to convert to solar energy, they must know something given the amount of oil they have.

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  7. Thank you Norm. You forgot this little gem “Hydro’s controversial deferral accounts are ON TRACK to top out at $5.7 b in 2019”. Well, as long as they are on track. Seems everything is hunky dory according to Palmer.

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  8. Palmer: “ratepayers would be facing a 10 per cent hike with nothing to show for it…”

    This is news?

    As Norm reports, since 2009 we have had rate hikes almost 10 times that amount mostly to finance multi-billion dollar rewards to private producers and to build new power lines to collect the power Hydro resells for a fraction of its cost. Also, the northwest transmission line so the Red Chris mine could have power they’re getting but not paying for.

    Did Palmer ever give a complete and honest review of the private power schemes that leave us on the hook for about $60 billion dollars in future payments. Did he mention that Liberal insiders were involved in many of the deals?

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  9. We all know what “Freedom of the Press” really means, don’t we?. Wasn’t it Samuel Clements who made the comment that if you don’t read a news paper you are not informed; if you read a newspaper you are misinformed.

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  10. Thank you everyone here. You point out just how much we need to maintain honest reporting. MSM is not interested in telling the truth. The status quo worked well for them. They want it back and will stoop just as low as Christy Clark ever did to accomplish that.

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  11. Any advertiser, apologist, or propagandist can write a column — doesn’t necessarily need to be a journalist, but any one of them can claim just that.

    The fact that businesses, as well as residential and institutional customers, are being hurt by the sabotage of BC Hydro illustrates the difference between corporate cronyism and its prey, private and public enterprise. The BC Liberals were never the friend of the vast majority of businesses in BC, and certainly not the “free enterprisers” they’ve claimed to be — not free of crony favouritism, anyways.

    Crony favourites of the defeated BC Liberal government have always wanted to be the private suppliers of BC’s electricity so’s to charge a large, secure market the gouging rates IPPs currently charge BC Hydro, and thus become very rich. The former government cleverly spent public money to effectively pay these cronies dividends for their support and kicking in a few bucks to the party. But the big payoff was to be first-in-line reservation to buy out the public’s interest in the enterprise, suitably bankrupted in preparation.

    Why else would an enterprise buy product it can make for itself cheaper, and them sell it for a loss? Why else would the BC Liberals allow improper accounting methods but to hide it and their ultimate goal?

    The BCUC had to be gotten out of the way else it throw a wrench in this bankruptcy plan by disproving the supposed growth in demand and exposing it as a purposeful lie. Corporate media sure wasn’t going to blow the whistle on its master subsidizers. With stink about to betray its source, Site-C was fired up whilst the coast was clear: its huge capital cost and lack of profitable markets for its electricity would hasten felling the hobbled public enterprise giant. Then the payoff.

    The recent resurrection of BCUC and its investigation of Site-C has revealed a whole bunch of perfidy, and it’s only but scratched the surface. Baldly and Shephard are goofs. Palmer is a skilled BC Liberal apologist. BC Liberal appointees at BC Hydro have been busted lying. None of what they say can be believed.

    BTW: since these defenders of a disgraced and indicted regime have all bent numbers so much and so often to conceal and mislead, what should we think of the figures they’ve proffered for putting Site-C out of our misery? Wanna bet it’s way less than the $1.8 billion claimed — that is, $2 billion, in MSMese — !

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  12. Instead of investing that money in its own infrastructure, BC Hydro will spend $56 billion for costly, intermittent power from IPPs, with nothing to show for it.

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    • $56 billion plus inflation adjustments. It is a BC Liberal program that allows private companies to put their hands into every person’s pockets. A true scandal but one the corporate media steadily ignores.

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  13. Democracy requires the consent of the governed, and it is axiomatic that informed consent is crucial. There is a profession founded on the predicate of informing the public, and therefore the governed. That profession is journalism, and the creed of its practitioners is commonly summarized thusly: “I believe in the profession of journalism. I believe that the public journal is a public trust; that all connected with it are, to the full measure of their responsibility, trustees for the public; that acceptance of a lesser service than the public service is betrayal of this trust.”

    It is inconceivable that (with the possible exception of Mr. Baldrey) a journalist could be so incompetent that the public’s trust would be violated by such glaring omission or distortion of fact. Which leaves deliberation as the likely cause.

    Individuals who deliberately betray the public trust must be held in public contempt.

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  14. Today in

    https://www.leg.bc.ca/documents-data/debate-transcripts/41st-parliament/2nd-session/20171121pm-House-Blues

    T. Redies: I understand this is…. BCUC has put this in. I think, perhaps, it’s because they were asked to find a comparable alternative portfolio to Site C, and the only way they could do that was to use a low load forecast and IPP financing to make Site C more comparable with the higher-cost alternative portfolio that they were looking at. But that’s just my supposition. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

    Can the minister or B.C. Hydro confirm the relative costs of IPP power to the hydro power produced by the heritage assets? [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

    Hon. M. Mungall: I appreciate the member’s question. I had to giggle a little bit, because I think for several years when the NDP was in opposition, we asked this very question of the former Minister of Energy, Bill Bennett, particularly around the time when that government in 2009, 2008, was changing legislation and opening up the floodgates, so to speak, for independent power projects. The costs that B.C. ratepayers were having to pay through these IPP contracts was quite concerning. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

    The average cost per megawatt hour for an IPP is $100, and the average cost per megawatt hour for our heritage assets is $32. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

    [1415]

    T. Redies: Thank you to the minister for being so candid in that answer. It’s quite a big difference. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

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