Author Archives

Norman Farrell

Made in Canada

Played for fools

BC residents: we’ve been played for fools by BC Liberals, the private power industry and a complicit media. Between 1997 and 2015, the utility increased assets by $17 billion and added another $4 billion by December 2016. With markets flat but purchases from Independent Power Producers rising steadily, BC Hydro must reduce production of low-cost hydroelectricity in its own facilities.

“…and we’ll never get any of them in jail”

Anne Cameron: Well, we’re less than 300 fulltime residents, we’re at the end of a goat track, we’re an hour and a half out of Gold River and, frankly, who gives a poop. We’re being fleeced by two corporations, and we’re being screwed by the government which allows out-of-sight out-of-mind pillage which they will insist on calling “resource extraction”.

Something rotten with the state of BC Hydro

After four decades of successful operation, BC Hydro changed drastically under Campbell/Clark Governments. It’s become a patronage playpen, with the chief executive suite and the boardroom peopled with loyal Liberal friends. It’s been a comfortable ride for BC Liberals but a disaster for residents and small-medium businesses. Now the incompetents want to make it even worse by delivering billions more to companies of questionable integrity. Important Site C contractors have been implicated in corrupt and questionable practices.

Buy high, sell low

The structure of the Canadian Entitlement makes it an extremely valuable commodity in the utility industry. Electricity is more valuable when it is virtually guaranteed to be available, or “reliable,” and when its delivery can be shifted to times of high demand, or “flexible.” The Canadian Entitlement offers both of these attributes. British Columbia’s sale of 4,540 GWh of electricity brings in about $120 million a year, which is 2.64¢ per Kwh. We didn’t need that power because, with ever-increasing purchases from independent power producers (IPPs), the province had surplus electricity. In the last reported quarter, December 2016, BC Hydro paid an average of 9.14¢ a KWh to IPPs. Had BC replaced IPP power with the Canadian Entitlement, at 9.14¢/KWh, it would have saved $295 million in 2016.

To supporters of In-Sights

The prospect of lost power and influence has financial elites gathering money to conduct unprecedented misinformation campaigns. They will be assisted by a dependent corporate media that has grown too close and comfortable with the few people making political policy in our province. For example, as I’ve pointed out repeatedly, resource industries gained billions through subsidies and tax reductions and they are willing to spend heavily to maintain those benefits. In the transition period, it will be important for citizens to ensure that all points of view are heard and evaluated, not just the views of special interests.

"Prudent management of your tax dollars"

The 2009 BC Liberal platform makes broad promises and one of them provides the title for this piece. Their platform offers this additional reassurance:
“. . . expenditures, backed up by a detailed business plan for every ministry. But our record shows that we have the competent team and credible plan to get it right.” Does that give you confidence tax dollars will be managed prudently? Perhaps we should examine BC Liberal announcements for one ongoing mega-project, BC Place Stadium.

What explains Site C policy?

BC Hydro’s own statistics prove the utility has no good business reasons to be building Site C. Domestic customers use the same volumes of electricity today as a dozen years ago and rapidly rising prices will ensure further conservation moderates consumer demand. BC Liberals argue the new dam should be built, not because it is needed, but because it is providing jobs. That, of course, fails to account for financial damage to commercial and industrial enterprises hit with rapidly rising electricity rates. The competitive advantage of low cost electricity once enjoyed by BC employers has been squandered.

BC Liberals and pay-to-play

Is the BC Liberal Party involved in racketeering, extorting cash from corporations in return for protection from legal and financial sanctions? That the question can reasonably be asked demonstrates the urgency of prohibiting major payments to political parties by groups doing business with government or subject to regulation by public authorities.

Comfortable

The first part of this article was written in November 2009 and the addendum was added April 2016 and subsequently updated. I repeat this item because it demonstrates that, while applying austerity to the province’s most needy citizens, the Clark/Campbell Liberals have treated a favoured few quite differently.

BC Hydro deliberately failing to notice changes in our world

BC Hydro and their consultants have not moved up the learning curve despite being wrong year after year for more than 12 years and sadly the BCUC has let them ride on this way. The consequence of being deliberately wrong for 12/15 years is the condition we now have. Residential and small business rates up +70% with no increase in demand. We also have new contractual debts of plus $60 billion to IPPs…

Dr. Harry Swain speaks

Harry Swain, a former federal deputy minister, was Chair of the federal and provincial Site C Joint Review Panel. He has strong views about the project and about financial reports issued by BC Hydro. On June 8, Dr. Swain appeared on CFAX with Pamela McCall (audio is linked below). In most jurisdiction, the allegation of “accounting chicanery” at a multi-billion dollar crown corporation, made by a highly respected professional, would draw attention of corporate media’s political pundits. However, this is British Columbia and BC Liberals and business friends have put great effort into buying media silence.

Hydro’s deferred costs 20x typical

Citizens should be astonished by Richard McCandless’ statement that BC Hydro’s “net income is almost fully insulated from the vagaries of actual revenue and expenditures.” Indeed, the utility books revenues not received or owing to it and treats incurred expenses as if they are assets.

Certainty of Site C massive cost overrun is 86%

BC’s Minister of Energy said in mid October that the $7.9 billion budget for Site C had been examined by top international experts and was assuredly “reliable.” Two months later, Premier Clark revealed the dam budget had jumped to $8.5 billion. Days passed and when project approval was announced, the budget had jumped to $8.775 billion. Once again, the British Columbia Liberals demonstrate practiced mendacity. They are consistent though since mega-projects of the past five years typically doubled between first announcement and completion but were invariably pronounced to be on-time and on-budget. The mantra will be used again…