he past number of months have not been a shining example of openness and accountability. We have all seen the ads on TV or heard them on the radio. Boastful claims of good management, nation-leading job creation and balanced budgets.
The (provincial) government is spending over $15 million this year to tell us that we are all good. No problems here. Unfortunately, reality is not part of the ad campaign. A quick review of the Statistics Canada employment numbers year over year shows that far from leading the country in job growth as the government funded ads suggest, we are actually eighth, only ahead of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
If the job numbers are being fudged, what about the other claims? How is that balanced budgets thing working out? According to the Ministry of Finance, this year’s budget is projected to be in deficit to the tune of a billion plus and rising. The B.C. Liberal government has not recorded a balanced budget since 2008, yet there on our televisions, at our expense, we are told that all is well on the fiscal front.
Then there is the ‘open and transparent good managers’ line. Indeed. Put aside the fact that the BC Legislature sits empty for long stretches of time. Let’s look at how we manage our electrical system. Last spring the B.C. Liberal government cancelled rate hearings the BC Utilities Commission was conducting into a rate increase request from BC Hydro. By arbitrarily cancelling the hearings, the B.C. Liberal government denied the public access to BC Hydro fiscal information and, equally important, a clear understanding of our energy supply situation.
If the rate review dodge was not enough “transparency” for one Crown corporation, the minister responsible then cancelled the finalization of the BC Hydro Integrated Resource Plan — the details of what we have, what we need and what it is likely to cost — and pushed it ahead to this summer, conveniently after the planned May election.
Why the secrecy? Why not lay out the state of affairs at our most important Crown corporation? I presented part of the answer to media this week. Buried in a mountain of material presented to the federal government as part of the Site C environmental assessment process, BC Hydro laid out their forecast energy demand for the next 20 years. Those documents show that far from being short on energy we have a massive surplus for at least the next decade, enough extra electricity next year alone to power 472,000 homes.
Usually a surplus is a good thing. But with electricity you need to move it once you generate it. The North American market is currently experiencing a flood of new power which is driving the price down. The amount BC Hydro was directed to pay for private power it does not need will force BC Hydro to sell the surplus at a loss. A big loss. Conservatively estimated to be $300 million next year and over a billion during the four year life of the next government. (read my news release http://www.johnhorgan.com/news/bc-hydro-documents-show-massive-surplus-expensive-power.)
When did buy high and sell low become an example of good fiscal management? The past decade of interference and secrecy has left us with a mess at BC Hydro. Even worse, as stated in the Ministry of Finance’s second quarter report, BC Hydro’s total debt load will be $14.5 billion this year, up from $6.7 billion in 2002.
The number of people who contact my office unhappy about these and other government decisions is growing by the day. What really galls people is seeing $15 million spent on ads that distort reality while programs for the vulnerable in our community are underfunded. People are angry and rightly so.
I look forward to reporting to you next month on this and other issues that I will bring to the Legislature as your voice for Juan de Fuca.
John Horgan, MLA Juan de Fuca