Kootenay East MLA Bennett’s continuing inability to accept legitimate criticism was again apparent in his letter to the editor (The Free Press, March 13. ) In it he characterised a previous letter, which was critical of the Clark government’s manipulation of BC Hydro, as ‘ partisan’ and ‘inaccurate’.
In politics, as in our ordinary, everyday existence, there are lies of both commission and omission. Given that Mr. Bennett is himself virulently partisan, it is not surprising that he omitted the following from his response.
In 2002, the Campbell government announced that all future Hydro production, with the exception of the Site ‘C’ Dam, would be contracted out to private Independent Power Producers (IPPs).
This remarkably impractical and purely ideological commitment was blindly supported by Mr. Bennett and his cronies at the Fraser Institute. Each contract was on a ‘take or pay’ basis, meaning that Hydro had to take, or pay for, IPP power whether it needed it or not. Because of government-imposed contracts, Hydro had to pay IPPs more than double the market price for their power. Hydro was also contractually mandated to pay IPPs for 25 to 30 years, meaning $2 billion per annum, indexed to the cost of living.
It is noteworthy that the BC Utilities Commission, which regulates BC Hydro, and whose pronouncements are neither ‘partisan’ nor ‘inaccurate’, considered IPPs to be ‘not in the public interest’.
Bennett himself now realizes what a disaster his government’s energy policy has been, so 10 IPPs have been cancelled and nine more deferred.
The draconian Hydro rate increase of 30 per cent, which he has imposed on British Columbians over the next four years, is not, as a recent e-mail from Bennett’s office asserted, to showcase ‘Bill’s ability to make unpopular decisions’.
It has been imposed because the wheels have come off the Fraser Institute/Bennett/BC Liberal, privatize-at-all-costs energy policy, something many commentators foresaw happening at its inception in 2002.
And it has been timed so that it will have faded from the voters’ memory by the time the next provincial election rolls round.