OUR VIEW: Playing political games with BC Hydro has got to stop

The BC Liberals are currently not in government, so it’s weird how the party could have had such a bad five-day stretch last week.

Normally it’s the party in power that suffers political misfortunes.

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The party took a hit on Feb. 12 when one of its MLAs, Linda Reid, was replaced as Assistant Deputy Speaker of the B.C. legislature by Coquitlam-Burke Mountain’s Joan Isaacs.

Reid’s role as Assistant Deputy Speaker became contentious after a report was released by Speaker Darryl Plecas in January. The report looked into spending by two high-level legislative employees and raised questions about expense reports and a missing investigation into a retirement allowance that allegedly happened under Reid’s watch.

Reid’s own travel expenses were also brought into question. Reid has denied any wrongdoing.

Things got worse on Valentine’s Day when a report commissioned by the British Columbia government said BC Hydro customers will pay $16 billion over the next two decades because the Crown utility was pressured to sign long-term contracts with independent power producers – including those that had donated heavily to the BC Liberals.

Minister of Energy Michelle Mungall commissioned the report, which blames the previous BC Liberal government for creating the problem.

The report says the Liberals manufactured an urgent need for electricity but restricted BC Hydro from producing it, forcing the utility to turn to private producers and sign lengthy contracts at inflated prices.

Former B.C. Treasury Board director Ken Davidson authored the study, which estimates the cost to the average residential BC Hydro customer will amount to about $4,000 over the next 20 years, or about $200 per year.

Davidson recommends all future energy purchases be made at market rates and finds BC Hydro must be allowed to meet supply obligations through a reasonable level of market trading, rather than by generating all electricity within the province.

Mungall says he also concludes the long-term deals forced upon BC Hydro were mainly with run-of-river producers, whose power is primarily available during spring run-off, when B.C. doesn’t require it.

“B.C. didn’t benefit. BC Hydro customers didn’t benefit. A small number of well-placed independent power producers benefited, and customers were stuck with a 40-year payment plan,” Mungall said.

Meddling with Crown corporations is nothing new to B.C. politics. BC Hydro and ICBC have been used as political pawns for decades – including when the BC NDP was in government.

It’s time for the meddling to stop.

Ratepayers are fed up with getting gouged with higher rates due to mismanagement stemming from political gamesmanship – such as pilfering revenues in order to balance the provincial budget. 

 

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