VICTORIA– The B.C. Liberal government is once again putting politics ahead of the public interest by issuing a cabinet directive to the B.C. Utilities Commission to set rates at B.C. Hydro artificially low before next year’s election, says New Democrat energy critic John Horgan.
“The Liberal government’s focus is on short-term political gain. They’re making decisions based on what’s best for them in the coming election, instead of what a government is supposed to do, which is make decisions in the interests of all British Columbians,” said Horgan, calling it “crass” and “incredibly cynical.”
Horgan was responding to Tuesday’s announcement that the government is interfering with the B.C. Utilities Commission by issuing a special direction to set rates at B.C. Hydro, effectively cancelling the public hearings planned for next month where the company was to defend their rate hike application.
“There hasn’t been a comprehensive review of B.C. Hydro’s books or long-term plans for years. If the Liberals are so confident they have things under control, why are they afraid to allow the independent utilities commission to do its job and provide the transparency and accountability the public deserves?” asked Horgan.
Noting that Liberal mismanagement is responsible for the 36-per-cent increase ratepayers have already seen over the past five years, Horgan questioned whether the artificially suppressed rate increase will mean even bigger increases in future years.
Last week, Horgan revealed that Liberal energy policies will be responsible for losses of $180 million over just a three-month period this spring because B.C. Hydro is being forced to pay extraordinary prices for private power purchases while our public dams are spilling water over the top and the turbines sit idle.
“That $180 million was just the tip of the iceberg in documents submitted to the B.C. Utilities Commission in anticipation of public hearings into B.C. Hydro’s rate application,” said Horgan. "The Liberals don’t like hard questions like that. They don’t like questions about billions of dollars hiding in deferral accounts that will eventually have to be paid back. They don’t like questions about the billion-dollar smart meter program. So their answer was to shut it down and pretend there’s nothing wrong.”
Adrian Dix and B.C.’s New Democrats are committed to restoring the regulatory role of the B.C. Utilities Commission, putting a moratorium on signing any further independent power contracts, and reviewing existing contracts to determine whether they are in the public interest.