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Volume Ten, Number Three   May 2005   www.columbiajournal.ca



WILL BC HYDRO STILL BE IN POWER?

The Liberals are transferring public assets into private hands.


We must ensure that our electricity is controlled by the public for the benefit of all citizens of BC.
The May 17 election is our chance to change the political agenda of BC. This election is all about power. BC citizens own the power now but the BC Liberal government is giving it away to private interests.
During the last three years the BC Liberals introduced and passed four bills that have a profound and negative impact on our publicly owned electricity utility. Given the government’s massive majority in the legislature, all four bills were pushed through the legislative process and made law with virtually no debate.

Page 5 graphicBriefly, the four pieces of Liberal legislation:
•    Privatized one third of BC Hydro;
•    Split the transmission arm of BC Hydro off into a separate company;
•    Paved the way for the sell-off of core assets;
•    Set the government above common law;
•    Prevents the BC Utilities Commission from exercising its public interest powers;
•    Allows cabinet to override the BC Utilities Commission on rate issues.
•    And allows cabinet to override other ministries and local governments to push through projects of their choice

The BC Liberals are treating us, the public, like fools. They are playing word games with us.
The Liberals are breaking up the electricity utility – but are retaining the words “BC Hydro.” When they sell off of the various remaining bits, BC Hydro will be an empty and impotent shell and all the profits that previously poured into public coffers, will go into the pockets of Gordon Campbell’s friends.
At the same time these changes virtually guarantee that our electricity rates will rise. We have already seen the beginning of rate increases. If we don’t change the privatization agenda - in the lifetime of your family pet, your electricity prices will double.

The Liberals are also foisting a new private power industry into the public arena with no planning, no organization, no public input. And they are making a mess out of it. Local government who have to facilitate this new business sector are in a very difficult position between citizens who see public assets like rivers and streams being taken away and the private profit companies that have a go ahead from the provincial government.

It is not only electricity at stake. Private hydro projects receive water licences to use our rivers and streams. We have already seen that the BC Liberals will not uphold the terms of these licences or protect communities when it is more profitable for licence holders to change the use of the resource. 
For example in Kitimat, Alcan was given a water licence on the Nechacko River to generate power for its aluminum smelter that employed 1000’s of people. Now Alcan can make more money selling electricity to the United States than it could smelting aluminum. The provincial government refuses to uphold the terms of the licence.

The Liberals say that their party is smart about business.  How smart is it to sell what is not yours?  How smart is it to rake in money now and leave the future with no resources and no infrastructure to sustain it? 
What can we do?

We need to show our support for public power in this election. Demand that your candidates commit to a future in which the electricity utility is held in public hands. We must ensure that electricity – an essential commodity in our lives – is controlled by the public for the benefit of all citizens of BC.
This election is our best chance to change the government’s agenda that will further privatize our public utility.

In an election the power is in the hands of voters. 
You have the power.  Please vote on May 17.

Beverly Tanchak
BC Citizens for Public Power




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