In November of last year, the BC Government released a very misleading press release entitled Province delivers on commitment to freeze BC Hydro rates. The release stated:
The British Columbia government is delivering on its promise to freeze BC Hydro rates, putting an end to the years of spiralling electricity costs that have made life less affordable for B.C. homeowners and renters, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Michelle Mungall announced today.
You would be forgiven if you thought that this announcement meant that BC Hydro rates were not going to go up this year. You were probably very upset if Fortis was your electricity provided. But it turned out that all the BC NDP had done was instruct BC Hydro to ask the independent British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC) to consider overturning its already approved 3% rate increase for 2018.
As I noted back in the fall, it was entirely uncertain whether the BCUC would agree to do this given the autonomy of the organization, the very legitimate concerns about the fiscal sustainability of BC Hydro, the ability for intervenors to provide further information and so forth. I suggested that the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources owed British Columbians a formal correction to the press release. She refused.
Well as expected, today the British Columbia Utilities Commission rejected BC Hydro’s request for a rate freeze.
The BC NDP responded with a hastily issued press release expressing disappointment. They further noted (with scant details) that:
“BC Hydro residential customers who find themselves in an emergency – such as loss of employment, unanticipated medical expenses or pending eviction for example – will be eligible for a grant toward their outstanding BC Hydro bill. The grant is up to $600 and does not need to be repaid.”
I reproduce our media release below.
Weaver responds to BCUC hydro rate freeze rejection
For immediate release
March 1, 2018
VICTORIA, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, responded to the BCUC decision to reject the government’s proposed rate freeze, as well as the government’s proposal to provide a lifeline rate program to low-income British Columbians.
“I am glad that the government is respecting BCUC’s independence,” said Weaver.
“If governments had always done this, British Columbians would not be facing the travesty of the Site C boondoggle. BCUC makes its decisions based on evidence and in what is the best interests of ratepayers. Respect for proper process is essential for public trust in government and for the integrity of our democracy.
“While it’s encouraging to see the government adopting a more evidence-based, progressive approach to support British Columbians facing income insecurity, this demonstrates the need to move past ad-hoc, boutique supports and seriously consider a basic income. As the world and our province faces challenges such as automation and the gig economy, we must proactively respond with innovative ideas. Basic income is widely lauded by economists and will help ensure that nobody falls so far behind that they can’t pick themselves back up again. When British Columbians are truly income secure, they will be able to take risks such as starting small businesses, which will help build a truly thriving, 21st century economy.”
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | firstname.lastname@example.org