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Campbell's Energy Plan: Music to Ears of Private Power

Far be it from me to ruin the happy tune, but here are three key questions.

By Rafe Mair 8 Nov 2009 |

Rafe Mair's column appears Mondays on The Tyee. He has served as a spokesperson for the Save our Rivers Society.

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Environment Minister Barry Penner and other officials at controversial Harrison Lake run-of-river project.

I can hear it now... Tom Jones is telling us about stepping off the train... the old house is still standing... there's his Momma and his Poppa... and of course sweet Mary with hair of gold and lips like cherry... how good it will be to touch the green, green grass of home. At that point you're feeling all warm and fuzzy about this cat -- but then, it happens. It's all a dream, and he's about to be fried in the electric chair.

This reminds me of Premier Campbell. Spin a good story and hope that no one wants to hear the last stanzas or asks what really happened (which would be unlikely to make the mainstream media anyway). Now, I don't say that women take their panties off and fling them at him when the premier sings -- but still the style's the same.

In his speech to the Independent Power Producers (IPP) Mr. Campbell produced -- big time. Even more rivers are going to be ruined. Even more corporate despoilers will be amongst us. Even more money will go from you and me to the shareholders of corporate America. An even bigger burden will be placed on BC Hydro as it must pay more and more money for power it must accept on a "take or pay" basis, and then sold for half the amount that was paid for it.

Those poor frustrated IPPs

I just love this line, don't you? "IPPs have been frustrated at times by protracted sales contract negotiations with BC Hydro, which have made it challenging to attract investor support for their projects." Imagine our company -- the power company that B.C. citizens own -- bargaining hard for us so that we only have to pay the despoilers double what our energy is worth! Gadfrey Daniel! That is indeed frustrating when you were expecting those cash donations to the Liberal party to produce triple or quadruple.

I wouldn't want anyone to get the notion that Mr. Campbell isn't consulting people, because he is. He's consulting all the corporations who have a piece of the action and want more, and with any more newcomers who want to do their charity work for us in this distant paradise whose government is clamoring to be stripped of its water, bears, birds, trees and money so that it can feed these corporate sharks as they keep California swimming pools warm and air conditioners cool.

We will not have one, two or three task forces -- count 'em -- we'll have four. They'll all be safe and sound under the tent of the Green Energy Advisory Task Force that Premier Campbell promised last August.

Bye bye BC Utilities Commission

There is yet another dollop for the independent power thieves. The BC Utilities Commission (BCUC), which has made such a nuisance of itself by standing up for public values that it threatens to stop progress just because it isn't what the public wants, is getting tubed.

Imagine those churlish cretins at the BC Utilities Commission daring to say that the Independent Power Producers' sacred legacy -- the BC Energy Plan they did so much to produce -- is not in the public interest! Talk about trivial reasons! Any right-thinking British Columbian knows that with Gordon Campbell standing up for us and our rights, no one needs bureaucratic nuisances like the BCUC messing things up for Warren Buffett and General Electric who are bent on doing so many wonderful things for us!

(By the way, as far as BC Hydro Chairman Bob Elton being replaced, surely no one thinks that its because he was saying things that Gordon Campbell didn't want people to hear! Perish the thought.)

You will be comforted to know that these task forces will be reporting to notorious wild-eyed environmentalists like Environment Minister Barry Penner and Energy Minister Blair Lekstrom, plus the hand-picked chairmen of BC Hydro and the BC Transmission Corporation. Jeez, if those four toadies... sorry... learned gentlemen... and the premier can't be trusted to stand up for us, who can we trust? As the line in that wonderful musical of the fifties, Lil Abner, goes: "The country's in the very best of hands."

You in the back, be quiet!

Now I hope you aren't being picky and complaining that no one's going to ask you or your neighbours, the rabble of the province, what you think. Or to think that opinions should be sought from scientists who might, by asking pointed questions, throw some cold water on this entire balls-up... er, project. Our "Leader," Kim il-Gordo, says this is no place for controversial opinions. "Let's get on with it" must be our watchwords.

Did I hear someone in the back complain that the ignorant masses didn't even have anything to say about the premier's energy policy when he and Alcan were sorting out the details? And is someone whimpering about how Mr. Campbell took away the right of municipalities to zone for these grand rapes... er, projects for our rivers and streams? Don't you understand that we must all pull together behind our leader? After all, didn't almost 25 per cent of us vote for him last May?

I have to make a confession. I'm one of those from the old school who can't stop asking questions. I have many questions stored up from my time as spokesperson for the Save Our Rivers Society and from scientists I have interviewed. I know that time is short and we must start silting up, diverting and killing our rivers and their ecosystems as soon as possible, so I'll just confine my queries to these.

Question 1. In light of the fact that the vast majority of private power is created during the run-off when BC Hydro doesn't need it, doesn't this mean that nearly all of it will be there for export by BC Hydro at far less than they paid for it? Isn't it true, to get to the meat of the matter, that the vast majority of private power will not be for our use here in B.C., where the wreckage takes place, but outside our borders?

Question 2. Doesn't this mean that BC Hydro will have one of two choices -- go bankrupt, or make up its losses by raising rates for B.C. industry, business and the public -- with, of course, the business and industrial rate increases passed on to us, the general public?

Question 3. Forgive me premier, just one more inquiry. Your old colleague Ralph Klein, ex-premier of Alberta, left office to get a big cushy position in the international energy field, making boodles of money, in part here in B.C. Is something like that waiting for you and your loyal colleagues?

Just thought I'd ask.

Postscript: Elegy for TALK 1410

The flameout of Vancouver's TALK 1410AM radio is good news for the Campbell government as it removes -- let's pray not for too long -- the voice of Simi Sara, who was the hope of all of us who yearn for the return of real talk radio to our airwaves. Sorely missed, as well, will be Dave Brindle from the same station, whose show held big power accountable by combining intelligent muckraking and fresh thinking.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics, Environment

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