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Municipalities vote in favour of smart meter moratorium

Mayors and councillors from across British Columbia have passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on mandatory installation of smart meters.

The vote took place today, the last day of the Union of B.C. Municipalities' annual convention in Vancouver. The motion for a moratorium reportedly passed by a vote of 55.1 to 44.9 per cent.

The move was applauded by COPE 378, the union that represents BC Hydro's 400 meter readers who will lose their jobs as a result of the shift from conventional to smart meters. Smart meters eliminate the need for meter readers because they automatically send data on electricity use to BC Hydro through wireless networks.

COPE 378 had been approaching mayors and councillors at various receptions throughout the week, said its communications officer Sage Aaron.

She told The Tyee that while delegates were receptive to the fact that its members would be impacted, "in all honesty, I don't know that our lobbying effort made a huge difference in terms of the vote turnout simply because there was such a groundswell against the meters that had more to do with these other concerns."

At a smart meter information session on Tuesday, some of the concerns brought up by delegates included health impacts, privacy issues and potential rate hikes, along with the program's $930 million dollar price tag. Several councillors criticized BC Hydro's communication strategy around its smart metering program.

Although Energy Minister Rich Coleman told the Vancouver Sun earlier this week that the smart metering program would continue regardless of the result of the vote, Gwenne Farrell, vice president of utilities for COPE 378 said she was hopeful that it would have some impact.

"Our hope that both BC Hydro and Minister Coleman look at this vote and realize that there's a lot of issues outstanding with regard to smart metering that need to be addressed."

Farrell said the union has had several meetings with BC Hydro beginning four years ago, when the province first introduced plans for a smart metering program. The union is requesting a retraining program for meter readers.

"BC Hydro has along the way basically said to us that this is an issue with Accenture," said Farrell. "As for the ministry [of energy] our attempts to meet with four ministers have completely failed."

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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