Cutting through the spin cycle of the new Site C opinion piece in the Vancouver Sun
If there is one thing that surprises many people who are new to following provincial politics, it is how easily governments can manipulate policy and legislation that is in place to protect taxpayers.
Two days before the NDP revealed allegations by former executive assistant Tim Duncan that he had been directed to illegally destroy documents, the BC Liberals passed the new Information Management Act. Section 18 changes the law so that staff who improperly destroy documents will not face charges under the Offence Act.
Hard to believe government can just change the rules like this, but it happens all the time and in my opinion, far too often in situations where the benefit is clear and who benefits from the changes, even clearer. When the rules don’t work for them, they change the rules.
Which is why this opinion piece from Iain Black, CEO & president of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade and a former BC Liberal mla, caught my attention: http://vancouversun.com/business/energy/opinion-ideal-time-to-build-site-c
While B.C.’s economy has outperformed the rest of Canada recently, the natural resource sector has been crippled by falling commodity prices. B.C.’s oil and gas, mining and forestry sectors have all been affected, resulting in economic hardships in many resource-dependent communities, and for professional services businesses in Greater Vancouver.
Fortunately, construction of B.C. Hydro’s Site C project has started, and its timing could not be better. First, interest rates are at historically low levels, reducing the cost of borrowing. Second, low commodity prices reduce the cost of materials — such as steel and concrete — and large hydroelectric projects require a lot of them. Third, the slowdown in the natural resource sector means there are a lot of available workers, reducing concerns about labour shortages.
Very rarely does a large infrastructure project start construction at such an ideal time. A decade ago, we witnessed the opposite during the construction boom leading up to the 2010 Olympics and Paralympics. Severe labour shortages and quickly escalating material costs wreaked havoc with many large public and private projects.
Site C, on the other hand, is well-positioned to avoid these challenges.
I get it – his job after all, is to promote and expand business opportunities for the economy locally and provincially. Mr. Black talks about the benefits to BC in jobs( many are and will be from out of province) and to suppliers (Camp trailers came in from Alberta already) then goes on to state that Site C has undergone decades of study and due diligence-which is only partially correct.
Site C has undergone years of studies but it can be factually shown – and I have several times already- that the single most important bit of due diligence intended to protect BC taxpayers, and Hydro ratepayers, will not be undertaken by the BC government.
This from Andrew Nikiforuk, included in a prior post de-bunking Energy Minister Bill Bennetts spin:
Bypassing the public’s watchdog
Given the huge cost to taxpayers and so powerful arguments against it, such a project deserves to be adjudicated by an impartial body with the public interest as its mission. That would be the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC).
The specific public mandate of the BCUC is “to ensure that ratepayers receive safe, reliable, and non-discriminatory energy services at fair rates from the utilities it regulates.” The only time the BCUC vetted the Site C project was back in 1983, and it rejected it.
This time around, the B.C. government excluded the project for any such due diligence, explaining “only duly elected officials have a right to make” such monumental decisions and not regulatory bodies specifically designed to provide checks and balances on political decision-making.
Economist Marvin Shaffer told The Tyee that “In my view, the government didn’t want the BCUC to review the merits and in particular the timing of Site C because it could well have been rejected by the Commission.”
“Virtually every ratepayer group including large power users and the wide range of general (commercial) users as well as the Public Interest Advocacy Centre would argue against building Site C at this time,” added Shaffer, a professor at Simon Fraser’s School of Public Policy.
Read the rest of this piece here: https://lailayuile.com/2016/01/08/cutting-through-the-spin-of-energy-minister-bill-bennetts-statements-on-global-bc-news/
While Mr.Black is welcome to his opinion,it’s clearly not in his best interests to try and impede business in any manner.Nor is it his job to ensure BC Hydro ratepayers and taxpayers best interests are protected. But the facts remain…
Fact: The government exempted this project from the only review that looks at the financial aspects of the project and balances them with the benefit or not, to BC Hydro ratepayers.
Fact: The 2014 joint provincial and federal review panel could not see a need for the project and advised that it be sent to the BC Utilities Commission for review.
Fact: That same bit of legislation that exempted Site C from review, also exempted IPP’s, or Independent Power Projects, which we know now BC Hydro is often paying to sit idle and NOT produce energy.
You can read about that bit of mismanagement here: http://www.canada.com/business/energy/hydro+spent+million+power/11842053/story.html
Fact: BC Hydro mislead the BC Utilities Commission once already,which resulted in an apology from the BC Hydro president,clearly demonstrating why this independent oversight is so critical. http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/hydro+boss+apologizes+inaccurate+testimony/11645238/story.html
Fact: BC Hydro borrows money to pay the BC government annual dividends, a foolhardy practice that is irresponsible and unsustainable – something we talked about here last year. https://lailayuile.com/2016/01/14/deception-and-privileged-secrets-are-common-facets-of-politics-transparency-accountability-on-site-c-lost-at-both-provincial-federal-levels/
These are all facts that are often ignored in the growing public relations this government is pushing to help get the project past the point of no return.
Facts that should not and must not be forgotten when reading opinion pieces like Mr. Blacks. The best interests of both taxpayers who will be ultimately footing the bill and of BC Hydro ratepayers who will see very large jumps in Hydro rates, has not been protected.
This is why independent review of Site C is a must. It just makes financial sense. Otherwise,let me welcome you to the very real potential for Site C to become a Muskrat Falls of our own.
*Must reads on the growing dam fiasco back east”