B.C. Hydro union calls Liberal rate intervention “a political ticking time bomb”
The union representing B.C. Hydro workers has issued a stinging criticism of the provincial government, accusing the B.C. Liberals of trying to buy votes in 2013 by cutting rate increases in half.
“They’re trying to buy our votes right before the election,” COPE 378 president David Black said in a release today (May 22). “But they are compounding the rate problem by pushing it into the future. What this really means is we will be facing unaffordable B.C. Hydro rates after the next election.”
Black’s missive came hours after Rich Coleman, B.C.’s minister of energy and mines, said the government had directed the B.C. Utilities Commission, the provincial regulator, “to reduce B.C. Hydro’s rate increases over three years by 50 per cent”.
Coleman also claimed this was “consistent” with recommendations laid out in last year’s independent review of B.C. Hydro.
According to the government release from Coleman’s ministry, the 2011-12 increase initiated on May 1 will stay at eight percent.
“Keeping rates down has taken a lot of hard work by B.C. Hydro and the Province, and I am pleased that we’re in a position to both lower rates for B.C.’s families and pay back deferral accounts at an accelerated pace,” Coleman stated in the media release.
For 2012-13, rates will go up by 7.1 percent, according to the same release, allowing B.C. Hydro “to pay down its deferral and regulatory accounts at an accelerated pace”.
However, the contentious issue is the increase set to come into effect on April 1, 2013, weeks before the next provincial election.
“Rates will be kept to a minimum, rising by only 1.44 per cent or $1.20 for an average monthly bill,” the government release stated.
The total rate increase over three years will be about 17 percent.
COPE 378’s Black claimed the government is merely trying to delay rate increases, intervening in current BCUC hearings on the planned previous rate increases, to delay political blowback from bad political decisions.
“This is just astounding,” Black said in the COPE 378 statement. “They cut off the BCUC hearings just as B.C. Hydro was about to put evidence on the record about their finances. The only way to view it is as a cynical attempt to obscure a decade of their mismanagement of our public utility.”
Black added that the B.C. Liberal government previously removed the $1 billion Smart Meter program from BCUC oversight, and that B.C. Hydro continues to face significant costs as a result of paying more for power from private power projects across B.C.