There’s a common thread among many of the biggest and best stories I’ve covered here: lack of government accountability and transparency. I recall contacting a BC government ministries media contact for a comment on a story I was doing once, only to get a clear denial back refuting everything. I sent him the internal documents that had been passed onto me from a company that engineered the project, contradicting his statements and others that even went into depth explaining all of it.
He stuck to the governments line. Didn’t exist, no such thing, And that’s happened more than a few times. It’s hard not to be completely cynical in the face of story after story, scandal after scandal and still see the same old politicians smiling through it all.
The fact is that most governments rely heavily on the disinterest or distractions of it’s citizens to continue to operate without scrutiny into their activities – a lack of attention from voters actually enables bad government. Most of us are so busy just living life, raising families, working 9-5 and if you are lucky enough to relax a bit here and there even better- who wants to wade into politics?!
Its often not until people start to find out what is happening right under their noses that they start asking questions and sometimes it’s too late. But it’s not too late with Site C, the contentious project to flood another portion of the Peace River Valley is underway with logging and a work camp in place.
Over the past two weeks I’ve been covering the events as they unfolded after BC Hydro posted a 24 hour eviction notice at the camp on New Years Eve. BC Hydro has yet to evict the campers, who are a combination of mainly women but a few men, who are members of Treaty 8 exercising their right to be on Treaty 8 land. They are supported by locals who are also opposed to the dam,some of whom who will lose land, or homes, and others who have been longtime critics.
It’s been interesting to see voters reactions to some of the items I’ve posted, in particular the post in which I refute Energy Minister Bill Bennetts statements on Global TV, that the province conducted 7 years of due diligence. It’s a prime example of what they don’t tell you being more important than what they do tell you.
Let’s talk about that again for a moment in the context of public trust. When you are an elected official, the voters have essentially said: “We have chosen you to represent us,and we trust you will act in good faith.” But the reaction by many to hearing that the BC government had exempted a 9 billion dollar + project from the proper regulatory review, was complete and utter shock. No, it was not well known and because it happened 6 years ago, it’s not widely come up in most stories on SiteC.
I still feel strongly the province failed the public trust by not allowing the BC Utilities Commission to do it’s job. Not only that, I say this government is failing it’s inherent fiduciary duty to voters as well in even contemplating such a project knowing full well the state of BC Hydro’s finances: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Hydro+paid+most+dividends+using+borrowed+cash/10723965/story.html
“BC Hydro has borrowed most of the billions of dollars in dividends it has been forced to pay the provincial government over the last two decades.
The cash-strapped Crown corporation has been locked into returning a share of its profits to the provincial treasury based on an old formula that was increasingly unaffordable, said Energy Minister Bill Bennett.
The Crown energy corporation has paid $5.4 billion in dividend payments since 1992, of which 60 per cent was borrowed money, energy ministry data shows.
The government uses the Hydro money to reduce what it has to borrow for its other provincial capital projects, such as highways, schools and hospitals.
Bennett said it’s an unsustainable practice that he’s committed to change in 2018 — a year after the next provincial election.
Critics, including B.C.’s auditor-general, have long accused the provincial government of being addicted to Hydro’s annual cash windfall, and have warned that Hydro is racking up debt and deferring costs in order to meet government’s financial expectations.
But neither government nor Hydro has previously admitted the extent to which Hydro has borrowed money to meet its provincial demands.
Others have accused the province of over-milking Hydro’s profits, which pushed the corporation to hike consumers’ electricity rates to afford its continued operations. Hydro rates are set to rise 28 per cent over the next five years.
Former auditor-general John Doyle noted Hydro has simply deferred costs into future years, which “creates the appearance of profitability where none actually existed”
Interestingly enough, this first came up when I was contacted by a Chetwynd resident recently,asking where all the money went from BC Hydro. I sent her both the above link, and this one: http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/op-ed/comment-debt-subterfuge-will-cost-b-c-hydro-ratepayers-1.2092192
Ratepayers in B.C. can expect dramatic electricity-rate increases for years to come.
Those rate increases will be needed to pay off B.C. Hydro’s soaring long-term debt and other costs the company has shunted to future ratepayers to make itself seem profitable and offset the impact of its spending on current customers.
Meanwhile, residential ratepayers — who have been cutting back on electricity consumption in recent years — will consume less, yet pay more each month.
B.C. Hydro has increasingly issued debt to finance its activities, with the company’s long-term debt having increased from $6.8 billion in 2004 to $16.7 billion last year — an increase of 146 per cent. The amount spent each year in interest payments alone has increased 35 per cent since 2004 and now amounts to $685 million, up from $507 million.
It’s all a shell game.To many financial analysts it’s a recipe for all intents and purposes, bankruptcy. The province is fully aware of this, the premier is aware of this and for damn sure Bill Bennett is aware of this since he claims he’s going to fix it all…. after the next election: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/bc-hydro-preps-for-rate-review/article26556170/
The B.C. Liberal government, no fan of the independent B.C. Utilities Commission, has pushed aside the regulator of Hydro rates to suit its political needs since 2012 – conveniently, before the last provincial election. And the cabinet has approved billions of dollars’ worth of pet projects without the regulator’s scrutiny.
Mr. Bennett is adamant that government should determine energy policy, and he is likely to exclude another two major projects from a regulatory review before this year is out. Although a public consultation is still in process, Mr. Bennett is very much leaning toward bypassing the commission again, to fast-track a pair of transmission lines that would bring electric power to natural gas operations in the province’s northeast.
But there is opposition, on the grounds that ratepayers will have to pick up the tab at some point for all these government-driven decisions. Critics – chiefly ratepayers – argue the best way to ensure that Hydro is spending only what it needs, is to let the independent regulator do its job as the watchdog.
The BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre has been calling for the commission’s role to be restored for that reason. Now the group is taking advantage of the rate structure review to propose new relief for low-income residents who make up about 11 per cent of Hydro’s residential customers. BC Hydro’s residential electricity rates have increased by 47 per cent over the past decade, they argue, while social assistance rates and the minimum wage have been almost frozen.
The group is just one of the stakeholders that will be lining up to try to influence the shape the coming rate increases. They know there is a reckoning due for all the years of government tinkering and “rate smoothing.”
Mr. Bennett says he has a 10-year plan to keep rates low, but there is undeniably upward pressure. The Crown corporation’s capital plan calls for spending $2.4-billion each year for the next 10 years. Because rates haven’t kept up with Hydro’s real revenue requirements, the corporation has been amassing debt in what it calls “deferral accounts” – those accounts will reach more than $5-billion by 2018. At the same time, demand for Hydro power is falling short of its forecasts, and the cost of producing energy is climbing
That someone like me, has to sit here and piece these bits and pieces together to show you what your elected officials will not, is appalling. Alone, these articles were perhaps surprising,but not many read them.Together, a year later matched with other pieces of information, a worrisome look at what happens when no ones watching.
BC Hydro has been borrowing money, to pay the government dividends, which the government uses to fund its pet projects, among other things. The debt at BC Hydro is mounting, the government has blatantly exempted several BC Hydro projects from review by the regulatory agency responsible and plans to exempt more.
The BC Utilities Commission is essentially the only check and balance taxpayers have to ensure there is some control over what BC Hydro and government get up to. But because government doesn’t like have any control asserted over it’s decisions, it often stops the BC Utilities Commission from doing it’s job.
But don’t worry. Government has got it all handled…
It’s bad enough that so much is kept hidden, or never mentioned or that our Energy Minister, knowing all of this full well, would go on Global and state 7 years of due diligence has been done ( Still a lie in my opinion).
But not only that, they put bids out and finalized contracts while there are three court cases pending from First Nations in the province.
With yesterdays news that the BC Supreme court ruled the BC government had failed to consult properly with First Nations on the Enbridge proposal, one wonders how this will impact the court cases involving Site C.
The province now finds itself in a tenuous position, stuck between a legal rock and a hard place…appeal the BC Supreme court decision on Enbridge which implies the province feels they did consult First Nations and sends a defiant message to Coastal First Nations… or don’t appeal and have a standing ruling that may be used as a helpful precedent in the Site C cases.
And speaking of being stuck between rocks and hard places, Justin Trudeau and his cabinet are in a similar position with regards to Site C.
As Trudeau mentioned last year, he plans to develop a new relationship with First Nations across the country: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/justin-trudeau-afn-indigenous-aboriginal-people-1.3354747
“It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations peoples, one that understands that the constitutionally guaranteed rights of First Nations in Canada are not an inconvenience but rather a sacred obligation,” said Trudeau to loud applause from First Nations chiefs this morning.
Where measures are found to be in conflict with your rights, where they are inconsistent with the principles of good governance, or where they simply make no public policy sense, we will rescind them,” said Trudeau.
Good to know. Because both First Nations and critics opposed to Site C are calling on Trudeau to reveal the reasons for approving the Site C Environmental certificates, that the Harper cabinet invoked secrecy on – a practice used far too often by the Harper government – and honour the treaty. http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/Opinion+First+Nations+oppose+Site/11647693/story.html
There can be no doubt left, that this is all wrong.It needs to be halted. And the spotlight will continue to shine on both Premier Clark and Prime Minister Trudeau: Halt construction, honour the Treaty and send this project to the BC Utilities Commission for a full review.
1) BC Hydro issues eviction notice under cover of New Years Eve http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/02/bc-hydro-issues-rocky-mountain-fort-campers-at-site-c-a-24-hour-eviction-notice-on-new-years-eve/
2) A litmus test for ‘Real Change’ : where is Justin Trudeau on Site C? Why isn’t new federal government investigating why Harper invoked cabinet secrecy on Site C decison? http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/04/the-litmus-test-for-real-change-where-is-prime-minister-justin-trudeau-on-sitec/
3) ( photos of demonstration here) Separate demonstration at Site C BC Hydro gates results in three arrests, including Arthur Hadland- long time former Peace River politician http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/06/longtime-peace-river-politician-and-site-c-opponent-arthur-hadland-arrested-at-site-c-demonstration-today
4) UBCIC issues press release one day after Treaty 8 does, asking BC Hydro to stand down. http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/07/first-nations-prepare-for-arrest-to-stop-site-c-dam-ask-prime-minister-to-suspend-federal-approval/
5) Debunking Energy Minister Bill Bennetts misleading statment on Global BC http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/08/cutting-through-the-spin-of-energy-minister-bill-bennetts-statements-on-global-bc-news/
6) Powerful and compelling words from a Treaty 8 elder : http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/11/powerful-and-compelling-words-from-treaty-8-elders-at-rocky-mountain-fort-campbut-is-anyone-in-government-listening/
**The most telling comments from Bennett came in this Globe and Mail article from a while back. The last two paragraphs, are alarming.