Editorial opinion: Hydro rate hikes, tip of the iceberg

Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan comments on proposed rate hikes

The Liberal government has mismanaged BC Hydro and, as a result, hydro rates will continue to climb, affecting all British Columbians.

The latest example of mismanagement is the Liberal government’s bungling of the Northwest Transmission Line project, resulting in a massive $342 million cost overrun.

While Premier Christy Clark was quick to tell television cameras the colossal overrun won’t lead to a big spike in hydro bills for families across the province, her own energy minister Bill Bennett finally admitted the truth, saying, “everyone in government recognizes that rates are going to have to go up.”

The Northwest Transmission Line is an important project, and if it were managed by a fiscally competent government, the impact on B.C. families would be minimal. But the project is being managed by the Liberals – the same government that raids dividends each year from B.C. Hydro on profits that don’t exist.

Hard-working ratepayers across B.C. will be the ones who end up paying for this latest Liberal foul-up through rate hikes that could be in the double-digits. The Liberals’ ongoing abuse of accounting tricks that hide billions in debt at B.C. Hydro combined with signing contracts to buy high-priced low-value power will be major contributors to rate increases in the years to come.

Families that are already living paycheck to paycheck – people working two or even three jobs in order to pay the bills – are going to feel the impact the most. Turning the heat off during the winter isn’t an option.

The 84 per cent cost overrun is a direct result of Liberal political interference.

It was the Liberal government that prevented the B.C. Utilities Commission from scrutinizing the project plan in the first place.

The commission is the independent body in B.C. that has a mandate to regulate electricity utilities and “ensuring that customers receive safe, reliable and non-discriminatory energy services at fair rates.”

When the Liberals interfered with the commission doing its job, the government interfered with the best interests of the ratepayers, and the lack of oversight paved the way for the massive cost overrun.

The result is looming rates hikes that will add to the long list of hidden taxes, fees and increased rates that are already hammering family budgets.

Ferry fares have gone up every single year since the Liberals “restructured” BC Ferries in 2003. Fares have shot up so high that ridership and earnings have plummeted.

The B.C. Liberals have raised Medical Service Premium rates for five consecutive years (plus a massive 50-per-cent increase in 2002).  Since 2001 they’ve increased MSP rates by 85 per cent, or $736 per year for a family.

The B.C. Liberals have doubled university tuition fees since 2001.

The Liberals introduced a new residential care rate structure in 2010 which raised rates for 75 per cent of patients. A senior whose before-tax income is $22,000 will now be forced to pay close to an additional $2,000 – or approximately 10 per cent of net income – for long term care.

And the Liberals have made it clear that things are about to get worse.

Christy Clark’s new wheelchair tax, introduced just days after the election was over, is just the beginning.

The fact is Christy Clark and the Liberals are poor managers of the economy and BC Hydro, even though they spend millions of taxpayer dollars on advertising campaigns that tell you otherwise.

The post-election bill for that Liberal mismanagement will be arriving soon, and it will be landing in the mailboxes of hard working British Columbians.

 

John Horgan, MLA for Juan De Fuca,

New Democrat energy critic