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For this edition of The Flow I want to take us back to the beginning – in fact, before the beginning.

As many of you know, I was a cabinet minister in BC for five years back in the 70s. During that time we made several major changes in policy and let me use an example of one I made as Minister of Consumer & Corporate Affairs.

In 1978 I brought in a new Residential Tenancy Act to replace the old Landlord and Tenancy Act. This bill represented a marked departure from the old one. The rights of landlords and tenants were much changed.

The government had a handsome majority and if I had wanted to, I could have simply tabled the bill and crammed it through the legislature but this isn’t the way we did things.

To be honest I can’t remember whether I put the proposed bill out in a White Paper for comments or tabled the bill promising not to call if for hearing until affected people could be heard. It’s essentially the same thing.

It was not long before I heard it from all stakeholders, as we call them now. My deputy, Tex Enemark and I attended many meetings, each involving people angry about one thing or another. (Tex and I at one point laughed to ourselves that we must be doing something right since everyone was angry). We used the input to change many parts of the bill and – horror of all horrors – I even asked Norman Levy, my NDP critic, to meet with me and discuss the bill.

This wasn’t just Rafe Mair’s way – it was the government’s way.

Contrast that with the way the Gordon Campbell brought in his Energy Plan. A committee of mostly the business sector recommended a conversion of our long-standing public power system to private power. This Energy Plan is as close to Alcan’s suggested policy as damn is to swearing. There was no White Paper to which all British Columbians could respond, no public hearings, no public input to what was the largest change in policy in living memory.

When the policy was a done deal, bits and pieces were released. I well remember in 2003 (I was still broadcasting then) BC Hydro put out a release looking for small power plants on streams that had “no appreciable fish values.” I remember asking editorially just what that term meant but did little more.

Worse than that I had David Austin, lawyer for the private power industry on my show quite frequently and somehow completely lost my ability to cross examine and I unquestioningly accepted that these were little mom-and-pop operations with teeny little environmental footprints which hurt no fish. The only thing I can say in my own defence is that no one else in the media caught on either.

Here’s what should have happened: The government ought to have put the notion of private power to the public by way of a White Paper or a tabled bill – in this case a White Paper would have been most effective in informing people and getting their input. This wasn’t done, one can only assume, because the government had made a deal with private power producers – it was a done deal.

In this White Paper the government ought to have demonstrated a need for more power and why new development could only be done by the private sector. It didn’t do these things because Campbell & Co. could not make that case. In fact, we now know that we don’t need the power and that going “private” would do enormous environmental damage and take billions of dollars away from the BC Treasury.

I’m going to leave you with this: the government has simply told British Columbians a gigantic fib. They say that for 7 of the last 10 years BC has been a net importer of energy. Now, the National Energy Board, which deals with all international power exports, says that BC has been a net exporter of energy for 8 of the last 11 years (1997-2007). How then do the Pinocchios of government get their figures?

By sleight of hand showing once more that while figures don’t lie, liars sure as hell can figure.

Suppose that you make widgets and export 1000 a year to the US. Suppose you can buy widgets in Alberta for ½ the cost you do. Suppose you buy 2000 of those and add them to your exports. Here’s where you do the math. Does this mean that you’re a net importer of widgets? Of course not; you didn’t buy from Alberta to fill your own needs, you in essence just flipped them. It’s the same with BC and energy. Our import of energy from Alberta is not for our use but, to use a housing phrase, flipping.

The government can’t make the case that we’re net importers of energy – because we aren’t. Nor are we in danger of being short of energy in the foreseeable future.

More on that in columns to come but just remember the widgets whenever someone wants to palm off the nonsense that we are net importers of energy.


7 Responses to “Campbell’s Private Energy Plan: Zero Consultation With the Public”

  1. R. Hiebert says:

    We all enjoy a rivers now and again but don’t miss them until they are gone or polluted. In some ways I see them as a canary in the coal mine. The first time I was impacted by the effort to save them was a Rivers Day event in Maple Ridge a good many years ago. It soon became obvious that certain things we take for granted become a problem with the environment. Only two examples that have a destructive impact of irresponsible handling of used vehicle and equipment related items that have a negative impact on the environment is used oils and ethylene glycol antifreeze. The sooner the population does something about using synthetics the better. The common notion that vehicles need to have an oil change every five thousand kilometers is the first thing that needs to stop. Using synthetics that stays in an engine for as long as a year or forty thousand kilometers, whichever comes first will keep used oils out of the environment and destined for the recyclers. Ethylene glycol antifreeze is lethal, toxic and kills every and anything that ingest it in miniscule amounts. Propylene Glycol Antifreeze is a superior option and is not lethal and is non-toxic.
    Although government may be non-consulting in topics such as this but the people will know about it – so keep up the good work Rafe.

  2. I have to give Gordie Campbell credit for one thing, he’s achieved what many, myself included, considered impossible. He’s convinced me I need to vote NDP in the coming election. That’s amazing.

  3. Dick Goold [clayburn] says:

    I am in fact finished with Rafe, the only broadcaster I ever listened to after Pat Burns. When Rafe was on a topic he was on it! He has lost his way, In my opinion probably due to old age. That he can afford to carry a website is due to his financial ability, that I cannot is due to my financial incapability!

  4. Capitalist Pig says:

    Whats happening is the defacto privatization of BC power production … unfortunately, its being done without intensive study and consultation on long-term costs, access, and soverignty implications, etc… and as usual, the so-called big minds in the mainstream media hardly understand whats a stake for the long term (decades out).

  5. fisher says:

    Thank you for the care shown for this great province by yourself .I have listened and read what you are thinking for many years . I have found for the most part you are spot on.please do not become discouraged as many many BC citizens are behind you. Again THANK YOU FISHER

  6. Glen Grant says:

    Dear Rafe:

    I was planning on not voting this year or spoiling my ballot as a protest of Gordon Campbell unconsinable act of sinking us into Multi billions of dollars of debt to entertain the Worlds elite at the Olympic Games. Im from Prince George and I see everyday the devastating effects of poverty and homelessness on our streets here. In the future our culture today will be judged on how we treat our poor, sick (mentally) and the disenfranchised. To date I think we are failing miserably. But we can spend Billions so people can come from the world over to see grown men and women strap boards to their feet and go down a mountain and see who is the fastest. Somewhere along the line we got our priorities screwed up. A friend of mine sent your article on what Campbell is planning to do with our water. I guess that was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back. I think I will vote NDP even though I struggle with their views on morality. We definitely need a change.

    God Bless You

    Glen J Grant

  7. Gavin Bamber says:

    Glen, it was the NDP government in the 1990’s that brought us the 2010 Olympics. I bet the NDP would also keep the Liberal water policies if the NDP got back into power, God forbid.

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