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Opinion

Ask BC Hydro's Board of Liberal Pals to Explain Rate Hikes

Because it's consumers who'll pay for the Crown corporation's fiscal fiasco.

By Bill Tieleman 9 Jul 2013 | TheTyee.ca

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. E-mail him at weststar@telus.net or visit his blog.

"This is not the first surprise I've had from BC Hydro and I can tell you I'm pretty sure it's not gonna be the last one... when I have to I'm going to read them the riot act." -- Energy Minister Bill Bennett, July 4, 2013.

If Bill Bennett wants to get to the bottom of BC Hydro's lack of disaster preparedness and huge cost overruns forcing big rate increases for consumers, he doesn't need to read the riot act.

Just read the BC Hydro Board of Directors list and then ask any one of the many BC Liberal Party donors and insiders appointed by his government.

Premier Christy Clark's own chief of staff Dan Doyle was BC Hydro chair until he took over his current job in September 2012, replacing Ken Boessenkool, who resigned after he committed "inappropriate" acts.

And Clark's constant companion on the BC Liberal tour during the 28-day election campaign was Brad Bennett, a BC Hydro director and party stalwart. Brad is son of ex-premier Bill Bennett, but has no relation to the minister.

If there's any surprise, it's for BC Hydro ratepayers who will get hosed with significantly higher electricity bills of likely 30 per cent over three years because the government and board were playing with the Crown corporation's finances like it was Monopoly money.

And that's where the buck should stop, instead of being charged to the smart meters imposed on British Columbians -- another $1-billion boondoggle.

Instead, Bennett, Bennett and Clark presided over the pillage of BC Hydro revenue to balance the government budget through dozens of "deferral accounts" approaching $5 billion that will eventually have to be repaid through rate hikes.

And they implemented ex-premier Gordon Campbell's massive gift to independent power producers, forcing BC Hydro to buy their unneeded, high-priced electricity at costs far in excess of available market rate power.

In the year ending March 2012, BC Hydro paid IPPs $676 million -- more than double the price of imported energy available on the market then.

And BC Hydro has IPP contract obligations of $50 billion over the next 25 years.

The family BC Hydro

But don't expect a BC Hydro board full of BC Liberal insiders in addition to Brad Bennett to worry.

Current chair Stephen Bellringer has given the BC Liberals over $52,000 since 2006, Elections BC records show; director Larry Blain ran Partnerships BC, the government's privatization operation, for years; director Jamie Brown is the ex-president of Canaccord Genuity, who together with parent firm Canaccord Financial has given over $370,000 to the party since 2005: director John Knappett, a construction company owner, has given thousands to the BC Liberals and is a former director of the Independent Businesses and Contractors Association, a significant donor to the BC Liberals that has also run its own anti-NDP ad campaigns; director Tracey McVicar has extensive links to key party and government figures, as well as corporate connections to the smart meter program and $5,000 in party donations since 2009; and director James Hatton has given $2,500 to the BC Liberals since 2007.

BC Hydro also has senior staff with long BC Liberal links, including executive vice-president Susan Yurkovitch, who was parachuted into a job that now pays over $385,000 after helping run the 2005 election campaign, and who has donated to the party.

Steve Vanagas, BC Hydro's director of communications and public affairs, was ex-premier Gordon Campbell's deputy chief of staff for communications and now collects over $240,000 a year.

Meanwhile, Bill Bennett is blowing off enough steam about the $175 million-cost overrun on the Northwest Transmission Line to be a power source himself.

"How is it that BC Hydro can't estimate its costs accurately? The problem with this project is that BC Hydro does not operate like a business," Bennett claimed.

Actually, BC Hydro does operate like a business -- a BC Liberal family-owned monopoly that runs on political nepotism, not the best interests of its customers.

It's BC Hydro consumers forced to pay for this fiscal fiasco that should read the riot act to this government.  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

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