Author Archives

Norm Farrell

Gwen and I raised three adult children in North Vancouver. Each lives in our community with seven grandchildren, 12 years and younger. I have worked in accounting and financial management and publish IN-SIGHTS.CA with news and commentary about public issuesv.

BC Government hides fossil fuel subsidies

In 2019, BC’s Auditor General concluded natural gas operators were not required by government to decommission or restore inactive well sites. Furthermore, that funds collected from operators were inadequate to cover restoration costs for wells “orphaned” by gas company bankruptcies. The Auditor General found that because of these deficiencies, the BC Government had not effectively managed the environmental and financial risks of non-operating oil and gas sites. In 2019, taxpayers were on the hook for $3 billion in cleanup costs, an amount that has grown larger in 2020…

Heads they win; tails we lose – updated

Pension managers got huge salary increases; pensioners pay a price. The fiscal year that ended March 2020 was not a rewarding one for public pension funds run by BC Investment Management Corp. The rate of return earned was less than half that of the preceding year and failed to meet client benchmarks. While current and future pension beneficiaries did poorly, the people running BCI did swimmingly well. Regardless of whether investment returns are above or below conveniently flexible benchmarks, massive salary increases are given. For pensioners, this fits the old quip, “Heads they win; tails we lose.”

Platforms are for campaigning, not for governing

I remember reading Gordon Campbell’s platform in 2001. Based on the promises, I concluded Liberals were the logical choice for government. The trouble was, Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberals barely meant a word contained in the document A New Era for British Columbia. Despite Liberals not living up to their promises, they were reelected three times. John Horgan learned a lesson. Platforms are for campaigning, not for governing…

2020 election

A close observer of BC politics recently asked if I expected John Horgan to call an election before the scheduled date 13 months from now. My quick response was yes, Horgan will soon ask for a new mandate. The reasons…

Energy policy undermined by special interests

Difficulty justifying billions of dollars spent to meet a need that has not existed is no real problem for people who benefit from the expenditures. After years of arguing falsely that more electricity has been needed to serve population growth, now they contend that vastly more capacity is required for electric vehicles…

Good advice ignored

More than ten years ago, economist Erik Andersen and famed commentator Rafe Mair warned that BC Liberals had planted seeds of destruction in the bowels of BC Hydro. Indeed, the seeds germinated, spread invasively and debilitated the once proud utility. Citing five vectors, Andersen concluded the financial position of BC Hydro was headed dangerously downward…

Errors and alternatives

Three years ago, John Horgan’s Government promised the $10.7 billion budget for Site C would be firm, final and effectively managed. Three years before that, Liberal Energy Minister Bill Bennett provided assurance that the $7.9 billion dam budget had been fully reviewed by the world’s top experts. With an overly generous contingency, he said It was final, with nothing left to chance.

In 2020, BC Hydro admits it is uncertain how the dam can be made safe from catastrophe. Consequently, the amount of money needed to complete Site is unknown…

Absent watchdogs

Most journalists, particularly ones occupying the BC Press Gallery, have spent little or no time examining Site C, the costliest public project in BC history. In contrast, I remember daily headlines and aroused commentary when Premier Glen Clark’s government thought ferry construction would invigorate BC’s shipbuilding industry. In financial terms, the bungled fast ferry project was 1/20 the size of Site C, destroyed no valuable farmlands and disrupted no cultural sites…

Site C losses will be massive

With domestic demand in 2020 below that of 2005, the lies of BC Hydro’s spin doctors about demand growth are exposed by the company’s audited sales numbers. Site C power seems promised to natural gas producers and processors at less than 6¢ per KWh, which would result in operating losses at Site C approaching $500 million a year. Those could double if BC’s surplus power is dumped in export markets that are taking advantage of low-cost solar and wind power. With certainty of billions to be lost by completing Site C, the obvious choice is to suspend the project immediately. It would be the least-cost option…

Private profits but public risks – Updated

Commercialization of small-scale nuclear power has turned out to be far more difficult than investors expected a decade ago. Even one of the world’s richest entrepreneurs cannot finance a multi-billion-dollar program with an uncertain future. Nuclear may play a role in the 2030s but solar, wind and geothermal are viable power sources today…