Political interference dims BC Hydro

Over their 16-year term, the BC Liberal government ran BC Hydro into the ground. The massive political interference has led to a financial and environmental devastation. With the province’s credit rating at risk, it is time for serious reforms. Frankly, the provincial government must get out of the electricity business.

No private business would have ever made the imprudent political decisions the BC Liberals forced on BC Hydro. Examples includes the Northwest Transmission Line, the emphasis on run of the river private power contracts (generating power), and Site C in spite of LNG being a mere pipedream for years. While crown corporations are supposed to serve the public interest, the BC Liberals ran BC Hydro as a goody bag for donors (Such as General Electric) and as a borderline accounting scam. To make matter even worse when Hydro ran at a loss, Hydro was forced in to using “deferral accounts” to cover up the provincial deficit. How BC Hydro’s finances were abused by Enron-style creative accounting deserves a public inquiry.

Based on the gross mismanagement by governments of all stripes, privatization or splitting BC Hydro in to smaller companies not owned by the provincial government is a matter of urgent importance. The problems with BC Hydro are not simply a list of bad deeds done by the BC Liberals. The NDP’s freezing of rates (in the 1990s and now) and sweetheart deal with Union bosses at Site C shows that they cannot be trusted either.

In spite of fears raised about private utilities, Fortis BC generates and delivers affordable electricity to tens of thousands of British Columbians in the southern interior. For those opposed to for-profit ownership, municipal or cooperative utilities are an option widely used in the United States. The latter two approaches would not give the BC Liberals an ideological reward for their neglect of the public interest. For example, locally-accountable not-for-profit companies could operate the electricity system at cost, like rural electrification cooperatives. New Westminster, Grand Forks, Nelson all run their own municipal power companies. Regardless of what option one prefers, BC Hydro has become a political pork dispenser that must taken away from Victoria as both the NDP and the BC Liberals have shown they lack the responsibility and integrity to run a lemonade stand.

Thomas Cheney

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