VANCOUVER – The annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention spent quite a bit of time talking about new wireless technology. Unfortunately, most of it was wasted on ignorance and fear, fanned by the NDP, Green Party and some like-minded opportunists in local government.
A tiny group of protesters gathered outside the Vancouver convention centre each morning, setting up a pile of picket signs wailing about imagined smart meter sins from privacy invasion to human rights violation.
One of them allowed that she was wearing “special clothing” to ward off the bad rays. That’s understandable, since BC Hydro calculates that a delegate’s wireless signal exposure from four days at the UBCM convention is equivalent to standing next to a smart meter for 1,147 years. And that’s not even calculating those other horrible sources of electromagnetic energy bombarding downtown Vancouver, such as traffic lights, spark plugs, and let’s not forget the Sun or Earth’s molten core.
It wasn’t all foolishness, however. I attended an economic development panel, at which physician and cabinet minister Margaret MacDiarmid described the continuing extension of rural cell phone and internet service underway since the extension of the B.C. government’s contract with Telus.
There was not a discouraging word about cell phone towers, the innovation that spawned the anti-wireless cult in California many years ago. Quite the contrary.
MacDiarmid was beseeched to get cell service to northern Vancouver Island and un-serviced parts of the Interior, and to cut through the multi-ministry maze still required for routine approval of towers. Cell phones save lives on remote highways.
In the main hall, supposedly experienced municipal leaders continued to parrot fear of “microwaves” and such drivel, either because they believe it or because they are pandering to those who do. This continued on talk radio, which stoked the smart meter “controversy” all week, apparently because it reliably generates angry calls.
The descent into farce became complete when delegates had a show of hands on a resolution to place a moratorium on a smart meter installation program that BC Hydro has already paid for. The vote was too close to call, so they had to fish out their wireless voting devices to vote about 55 per cent in favour of the moratorium.
Premier Christy Clark was asked after the convention if her government would contemplate a moratorium on meter installation. “No,” she replied. This is not surprising, since the motion effectively asks BC Hydro to waste $930 million.
“I’ve spent quite a bit of time talking with the experts about it,” Clark said. “I don’t share those health concerns, because when we’re surrounded by wireless and cell phones, there are a lot of other sources of the problem that they’re concerned about.”
I’ve argued with numerous people about this. They often start with an exaggerated claim about the World Health Organization’s risk rating.
In fact, WHO acknowledges that people who claim hypersensitivity to electromagnetic signals can’t identify them in controlled studies. Their so-called affliction is psychosomatic.
WHO also notes that cell phone tower emissions are effectively five times weaker than the FM radio and TV signals to which we’ve all been exposed for decades. Cell base stations reach no more than two per cent of international limits. And smart meter signals are much weaker than that.
I’m done arguing with people who make up their own facts. I’ll just address those who haven’t bought into this nonsense. Please, survey your council candidates on smart meters, and on Nov. 19, support only those who have the common sense to understand what a smart grid is.
Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com