The admission by Dave Cobb, President of BC Hydro, that Hydro is spending 100s of millions for energy they don’t need came as a shock, except for Damien Gillis and me and others, notably the Wilderness Committee, who have been saying this for three years without a peep out of the government. It’s too bad that Mr. Cobb didn’t stand up and be counted by way of a press conference – instead his remarks were leaked. It could still cost him his job, although if he were fired, he would get a pretty penny in severance, to be paid by us of course.
The response by Energy Minister Rich Coleman is what I would expect from a member of this appalling government, though I did harbour hope, in vain, that the minister is made of sterner stuff. He simply replied that they had no plans for any more private power at this time, but they’d be sticking with the underlying policies that justified IPPs – criticized by both Cobb and the recent panel report on Hydro.
Coleman knows, or ought to know, that there will be no new private power, period. The political fall-out from Mr. Cobb’s statement has been enormous but if Bute Inlet, Glacier-Howser or other projects are approved, this government will never be allowed to get away with it. Without any doubt, such a happening would be ugly.
Let’s not overlook another problem: the environment. This is what got many of us involved in the first place. The environmental consequences of these plants is enormous and that alone would have kept any government of decent, caring people away from private power in the first place.
The issue of private power being both wrong economically and environmentally was raised by Dr. John Calvert in Liquid Gold, a book that every one should read. When Damien, Tom Rankin, I and others started raising the economic argument, it was greeted by silence, making me think of the famous Sherlock Holmes story about the dog that didn’t bark. Roughly, in the solving of the case, Holmes said that he solved it because of the dog. When it was pointed out to him that the dog hadn’t barked Holmes said, “Precisely.” We were, up until last week, faced by public dogs that wouldn’t bark, which confirmed we were right.
It wasn’t easy dealing with this matter, for the government insisted on the negotiations and the contracts remaining secret. Reflect on that for a moment – Billions of dollars of taxpayer’s money, given away in secret deals!
We had to fly blind with no help whatever from the mainstream media. Dr. Calvert’s book was published 4 years ago and the media remained silent. Op-ed pieces by industry and apologists for it were as regular as ones supporting fish farms but nary a discouraging word. The “hardnosed” columnists, Vaughn Palmer and Mike Smyth said nothing. Indeed the Province, the day after the Sun finally printed the statement of Mr. Cobb – and blockbuster story it was – was silent on the subject. Frankly, it’s been lonely as hell.
Now comes the issue of what next?
I can only tell you what an honest government would do. The minister would state that the policy had turned out to be too pricey for the shareholders (us) and it was hereby abandoned and would not be revived, Finis.
But this is not an honest government. It has been a corrupt gang from the start and Christy Clark was part of it, an integral part, as deputy premier. During her time in radio, she raised not a whisper about the Energy Plan – indeed she abstained from any criticism of the government. The hallmark of this bunch is one falsehood after another. They make the last NDP government look like paragons of virtue with brilliant economic policies.
When, in 2001, then attorney-general Geoff Plant introduced the legislation for fixed election dates in the legislature, he called it “an important tool for moving some of the power out of the premier’s office and restoring public trust in the political system.”
“When people are suspicious of the timing of an election, they become suspicious of the work their politicians do,” he said.
Deputy Premier Clark vociferously supported the move then, but somehow 10 years later – when a premier wants to exercise that very power we all assumed had been taken away – she recants. This is quite in tune with the insincerity and dishonesty of this government.
The revelation by Mr. Cobb could not come at a worse time. Premier Clark had hoped that the blue ribbon committee set up by Rich Coleman would fuzzy over the scandalous issue of costly and useless private power but, try as they might to be nice to the government, they disappointed the premier, who thought she could run an election with BC Hydro an issue for environmental kooks only.
It fortifies an old and cynical rule that governments should never appoint commissions unless they know what their answer will be or don’t care. Ms. Clark cares about this answer, that’s for sure!
Whether there’s an election in the fall or on its proper day in 2013, Premier Clark will have to tell us why she supports a policy which gives private power a monopoly to create new power which BC Hydro doesn’t need but is compelled to buy at a huge loss – while the IPPs ravish the environment.
I sense that no matter when she calls an election, Premier Clark will learn that being a photo-op is not enough.