New B.C. Liberal Energy Minister Rich Coleman’s record of all talk and no substance gives British Columbians good reason to question whether they can trust his claim that he wants to “take a sober second look” at planned B.C. Hydro rate hikes, smart meters, and oversight by the B.C. Utilities Commission.
As forest minister, Coleman made similar promises. But on his watch, the industry began its plunge into crisis, with tens of thousands of jobs lost, and the removal of Western Forest Products lands from three tree farm licenses on southern Vancouver Island – a move that was denounced by the Auditor General.
Given that it was the B.C. Liberal government which set the stage for B.C. Hydro to require rate increases by ramming through legislative changes a year ago, it’s tough to believe Coleman or any other member of Clark’s government is sincere about addressing electricity rates. After all, the B.C. Liberals’ Clean Energy Act put into law the conditions that will see a more than 50 per cent increase over the next five years:
- Legislated an arbitrary and unnecessary goal of B.C. becoming electricity self-sufficient by 2016, forcing an accelerated infrastructure upgrade process by B.C. Hydro estimated at $6 billion over the next three years
- Exempted an estimated $10 billion worth of electricity projects from independent public oversight of the B.C. Utilities Commission, including the billion-dollar smart meter program, the Site C dam project, the clean power call, and many others
- Requires B.C. Hydro to file a business plan for approval from cabinet instead of to the BCUC, enshrining political interference into the electricity generation process
- Continues to force B.C. Hydro to buy high from private power producers and sell at a loss on the open market while disallowing B.C. Hydro from building new generation itself
- Provides no public oversight for power exports from private power sources while potentially putting the financial risk on the public
Christy Clark campaigned on a platform that promised to maintain the status quo with the existing B.C. Liberal energy plan, including energy self-sufficiency and buying expensive power from private producers.
B.C.’s New Democrats are working on solutions to ensure that natural resources are used effectively to create jobs in British Columbia, while respecting First Nations, environmental sustainability and local community needs.