B.C. Liberals brag about interfering with B.C. Hydro, boosting bills

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VICTORIA— B.C.’s energy minister is bragging about muzzling the province’s independent energy watchdog while families pick up the tab for the B.C. Liberals’ private power deals, say New Democrats.

“The main reason to have an independent B.C. Utilities Commission is to protect ordinary families from rate shock,” said New Democrat energy critic John Horgan. “It’s unbelievable that on one day the B.C. Liberals pretend skyrocketing hydro bills are an unsolved mystery and on the next brag about how they have muzzled our energy watchdog so they can sign deals with private power companies.”

Horgan said the Liberals have turned circumventing the BCUC into an art form. Billions in capital projects like Site C, smart meters and the Northwest Transmission Line are all exempt from review, the last rate hearing was cancelled just before the election, and now the Integrated Resource Plan will be passed by cabinet without even a glance by the BCUC.

The Liberals are insisting that B.C. Hydro’s new long-term plan – due to go to cabinet by Nov. 15 – continues to favour private producers, and Energy Minister Bill Bennett is saying they should be grateful for the government’s interference.

As a result of Liberal energy policies, B.C. Hydro is on the hook for more than $50 billion in contractual obligations to private power companies, and leaked B.C. Hydro documents revealed they proposed a 26-per-cent rate increase over the next two years, in part to meet those obligations.

“A functioning legislature and a vibrant regulatory process are essential to keeping our public utility and our government in check. That the B.C. Liberals have done away with any public scrutiny should alarm both industrial and residential ratepayers. Rate shock will adversely affect families and the economy,” said Horgan.

“It’s not fair to ask families that are being squeezed at every turn to subsidize contracts with private energy companies.”