Too often, provincial governments hijack Crown corporations to advance unrelated objectives, causing colossal problems for the economy many years into the future.
The Gordon Campbell government was so eager to promote the private power industry that it forced B.C. Hydro to purchase expensive run-of-the-river electricity from companies controlled by B.C. Liberal supporters.
It's one of the reasons why B.C. Hydro rates rose nine percent on April 1, with more hikes expected in the coming years. That's going to siphon money away from other areas of the economy.
Had B.C. Hydro not entered into these contracts, those rate increases would not have been nearly as bad.
The previous NDP government used B.C. Ferries as its political football, building three aluminum-hulled catamarans for $460 million in the 1990s. They performed dismally in the Strait of Georgia and were later sold for just $19 million.
The NDP wanted to promote a local shipbuilding industry and create unionized jobs even though the minister at the time, Glen Clark, had been warned that the vessels were inappropriate for B.C.'s west coast waters.
Subsequent B.C. Ferries rate hikes have resulted in a sharp drop in traffic, undermining the Vancouver Island economy.
The transit system is another area where the prime objective—moving as many people at the lowest cost—is bypassed in favour of other goals, such as promoting real-estate development or stimulating the high-tech sector.
A provincial Crown corporation, B.C. Transit, plans to sell its 20 hydrogen buses, which were part of a $90-million plan to showcase B.C.'s hydrogen-fuel-cell economy. The vehicles were purchased at a much higher price than diesel-powered buses.
When decisions like this are made, it invariably means higher fares for people who use the transit system. Those users who suffer the consequences of bad decision-making are rarely the politicians who invest in transportation boondoggles.
The long-term impact of bad government decisions is an uncompetitive economy, which results in less money coming into the treasury to pay for health care and education.
When rapid-transit lines are built in mostly single-family or industrial zones (think the Canada Line or the Millennium Line), this doesn't relieve the most congested transportation bottlenecks.
As a result of political stupidity around transportation, employers in Vancouver have trouble hiring workers who don't want to pay the exorbitant cost of riding transit over two or three zones.
Similarly, when a provincial government builds an $883-million convention centre—only to see out-of-town delegate days drop to levels that existed before the facility was even built—it shows a shocking lack of due diligence on the part of our elected officials.
Don't even get me started on the roof over B.C. Place Stadium.
We're seeing a similar tale unfold over liquefied natural gas. Postsecondary programs are being overhauled to train a workforce for a B.C. industry that will probably never exist. No university, college, or institute president wants to utter a word about this publicly for fear of being cut off from some government funding.
If Shinzo Abe is reelected prime minister of Japan, you can expect him to fire up some of the country's 54 nuclear reactors. This is obvious to anyone who is paying attention to global affairs.
The revival of nuclear power in Japan, in turn, could sharply curtail international demand for LNG. Keep in mind that Japan consumed 37 percent of the global supply in 2012 after its reactors were shut down following the Fukushima disaster. LNG prices will fall, crippling the feasibility of B.C. becoming a major player.
Here's another one: TransLink decided to buy compressed-natural-gas-powered buses, claiming they would offer lower operating costs than ones using diesel.
But since the decision was announced, the price of oil has plummeted. So it's questionable whether those operating savings will be achieved.
In the meantime, TransLink will face higher capital costs for the new compressed-natural-gas-powered buses.
But this fits into the B.C. government's objective of promoting the natural-gas industry, so to hell with arithmetic. In the same vein, B.C. Ferries will convert ships to run on LNG.
Premier Christy Clark said in the last provincial election campaign that LNG would lead to a "debt-free B.C.". It reminds me of when Glen Clark used to talk about the glorious future of catamarans sailing across the Strait of Georgia.
The recent sale of the hydrogen-fuelled buses is only the latest example of our mediocre political leadership in B.C.
But as the zeal over all things LNG illustrates, it certainly won't be the last.