Freedom of disinformation

By any measure, BC Hydro was a success. So successful that pirates made plans to plunder. BC Hydro was a decades old operation that delivered power to British Columbia’s residential and business consumers at prices that ranked among the lowest anywhere. Additionally, a steady flow of money moved from the utility to public treasuries. Since 1989, the crown corporation contributed about $20 billion in dividends, water rentals and grants in lieu of property taxes. With assistance of 21st century Liberal governments, politically connected corporations began treating BC Hydro as a machine for dispensing cash.

Them vs us

Disputing parties in arguments about Site C belong to either of two camps. One is populated by people wanting a share of the billions of dollars to be spent; the other by people who will be forced to pay the huge sums.

Economic challenges ahead

Big money earned through illegal activities might have a greater impact than we care to admit and economic stimulus from criminal enterprises may explain why the former government hesitated to enforce certain laws. Over a long time, BC has seen a reduction of jobs in goods producing sectors, particularly in manufacturing, and a significant increase in service sector jobs. I expect we will have to rely more on innovative small and medium sized enterprises for future job growth and that our new government ought to provide increased encouragement to SMEs.

The Site C choice

British Columbia Utilities Commission will release its second Site C report on November 1. I expect this will provide further information but not a definitive recommendation. But, of course, the buck stops at John Horgan’s cabinet table. Proceeding with Site C without independent review was a major Liberal blunder. If you are trying to get out of a hole, the first act is to stop digging. The economic and cultural factors say stop Site C now.

Utility woes

The utility loses money on every watt of private power it buys and resells. That is the single largest financial difficulty faced by the company. In the future, it is obliged to buy about $60 billion of electricity from IPPs at prices that will increase with inflation. There is no pressing need for most of the IPP production but the obligation for its purchase cripples BC Hydro.

It will get worse for BC Hydro ratepayers

If you are paying attention to the affairs of BC Hydro, you know the utility in in financial trouble. However, it is electricity consumers that are feeling the pain. Unfortunately, with billions of dollars in phony assets to be written off, a growing power supply that outstrips static demand, payments to private power producers at three times market price and an an export market awash in surplus power, the economic agony dealt by BC Hydro will accelerate.

Looking forward

I assume that logic and fact will prevail and Site C, the most expensive public project in BC history, will be cancelled. It is a costly disaster but BC Hydro ratepayers are burdened even more by payments to independent power producers (IPPs). Much of the almost $100 million a month paid to IPPs leaves the province permanently because majority ownership is domiciled elsewhere. Private producers are paid a multiple of the wholesale value of the electricity they deliver.

Ending natural gas giveaways?

The four monthly auctions of gas rights held since John Horgan became Premier indicate the industry accepts it must pay more than it did under Christy Clark. However, the gas industry’s investment in Ms. Clark paid off handsomely while she sat at the head of the Liberal Cabinet table.

Minimum transparency

According to BC’s Budget Transparency and Accountability Act, September 15 was the final day for BC Hydro to make public its quarterly report for the period ended June 30. It was released October 16, which was the first business day following the conclusion of the final technical presentation session regarding Site C before the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC). That meant people appearing at BCUC’s community input hearings in September and early October only had financial information for the utility that was six months out of date…

R.I.P. Rafe Mair

Today is another sad day. We’ll no longer connect directly with Rafe Mair and hear his stories and his passionate advice. He knew this day was approaching but he intended to make his last years meaningful. And, they were. In 2017, Mr. Mair was finishing another book and he was a regular contributor to online journals. Beyond that, seeking to both inform and provoke, he broadcast a regular series of emails to people on his lists…