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Pushing for investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure

Yesterday during budget estimate debates I took the opportunity to question the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources on her plans for rolling out EV charging infrastructure in British Columbia.

As I mention in the discussion, reproduced in video and text below, the single biggest barrier in BC to the widespread installation of EV charging stations is the inability for anyone to charge for the electricity unless they are a registered utility. Those who install charging stations must give away the electricity for free. BC Hydro has installed only 30 (I’m serious ONLY 30) DC fast chargers throughout British Columbia! At these stations users presently pay 35 cents per kilowatt hour with a minimum of $2.00 per charge session.

Given that transportation is responsible for 40% of household greenhouse gas emissions in British Columbia, and given the growing uptake of electric vehicles provincially, nationally and internationally, it’s about time we work with industry to allow for charging stations to be installed throughout BC without relying on BC Hydro and public subsidizes.


Video of Exchange



Text of Exchange


A. Weaver: I have a couple of questions — I believe it’s within the mandate of the staff that you have present — with respect to electrical vehicle infrastructure. The questions are as follows. First off, what are the minister’s plans in terms of building out the electrical vehicle charging infrastructure in this province?

Hon. M. Mungall: Thank you to the member for the question. I’m actually really excited about the potential electric vehicles have in our future. How do we get there? Of course, the infrastructure for charging stations is really important, so I’m glad the member brought this up.

He’ll take note that there is $40 million in this year’s budget, over the next three years, to invest in the electric vehicle program, and $7 million of that is specifically earmarked for infrastructure, so for those charging stations.

We’re partnering with other utilities — B.C. Hydro being one of them, but others utilities like Columbia Power Corporation, FortisBC and local governments — to increase that overall $7 million and make those dollars go even further so that we can get more charging stations all across the province.

I’ll just let the member know, as well, that B.C. Hydro currently owns and operates 30 electric vehicle fast-charging stations. They have 29 more slated for construction. To accomplish that, they are partnering with FortisBC; with the province, as well, as I mentioned; Natural Resources Canada; and site hosts. So for example, you pull up to the Canadian Tire, and you see a B.C. Hydro fast-charging station. Well, that’s a result of that partnership.

A. Weaver: I do appreciate there being the high-voltage DC chargers that B.C. Hydro has done. Unfortunately, those chargers are not maintained by B.C. Hydro, and it is not uncommon to pull up to such a charging station and, actually, to have it inoperable.

My next question is: to what extent is B.C. Hydro planning to actually ensure that these high-voltage DC charging stations are in operation and are not going to go down on an ongoing basis? For example, Duncan was down for a couple of weeks. We also have one in the Interior where the executive director of the New Car Dealers Association was trapped with a Bolt that could not charge because the HVDC was down. Nobody told anyone about it.

The question is: to what extent is B.C. Hydro going to invest money to ensure, in the ones that they operate in collaboration with Greenlots, that these are actually in operation on an ongoing basis?

Hon. M. Mungall: It’s a new technology, as the member well knows. As we install these new technologies, we’re learning a lot in terms of how we do maintenance. That’s why B.C. Hydro has a program where they are ensuring that they’re doing their best in terms of maintenance. Also, what are they learning in terms of how this infrastructure rolls out and how it’s built?

Part of that $40 million that I talked about earlier, that $40 million envelope…. Well, $1.5 million is going to job training and public outreach and program analysis. For example, when we have these types of issues with the infrastructure around charging stations, we’re able to learn from it very quickly. We’re able to train people so that they’re able to maintain it appropriately and on time.

I appreciate that being out of a charging station for two weeks is excessive, and I’m sorry to hear that that happened. But moving forward, we’re definitely looking to learn from those lessons and ensure that we’re doing a better job.

A. Weaver: I would argue that the single biggest barrier to the introduction of electric vehicles in the province of British Columbia is, in fact, B.C. Hydro. In British Columbia, if you want to install a charging station, you simply cannot charge for power. B.C. Hydro and other utilities are the sole organizations that are able to charge a consumer for power. If you go to a gas station and you fill up with gas, you pay the gas station for the amount you wish to fill up.

We don’t need a public subsidy for the introduction of electric-vehicle-charging stations if malls, individuals and companies were actually allowed to install, in partnership with companies, and charge users for the ability to consume the power they do. That’s not possible in British Columbia, and that is the single biggest barrier for our introduction of electric-vehicle-charging stations.

My question is: to what extent is she exploring, as part of these measures, and looking at changing the requirement to be a registered utility in order to charge for electricity to use in your car? And to what extent can that be done through consultation with BCUC?

Hon. M. Mungall: B.C. Hydro is not the barrier that the member is talking about. In fact, B.C. Hydro is looking to partner with private businesses and individuals and is looking to see that infrastructure expanded. What is the barrier? There is one, and the member is right to identify it. It’s actually in the act with the B.C. Utilities Commission.

Responding to that, the ministry is working with BCUC on ways to address this barrier, on ways to allow private businesses to own charging stations and to flow through the charge of power that they would be purchasing. They’d also have a sound business model. They would be able to charge for the parking, for example, while somebody is charging their car while, maybe, they’re shopping at Canadian Tire. I obviously have a particular love for Canadian Tire because I keep bringing it up.

The point is that we do recognize that there are some barriers, and we are working on them.

A. Weaver: I do wish to acknowledge, I believe, the Chair, who showed leadership, which is what I’m arguing is needed here, through the actual installation of electric-vehicle-charging stations here at the Legislature. Unfortunately, the Legislature must subsidize the paying for that. The Legislature cannot allow, even though all of these are set up for swiping a credit card, for me to pay for my electricity or the Minister of Environment to pay for his electricity.

I come back to the issue. B.C. Hydro is the barrier to innovation. Twenty-nine charging stations across British Columbia, high-voltage DC, is hardly innovative when we have some down for weeks. This is not new technology. This is technology that is widespread and is in production around the world.

B.C. has the highest uptake of new electric vehicles in Canada. Four percent of new cars are electric cars in British Columbia, not too dissimilar from what California does with their own ZEV standard, yet we do not meet the infrastructure. The barrier is actually a proactive, innovative way of looking forward as to what’s happening in the future.

Coming back to the question then. Will the minister commit to actually work with industry — not with B.C. Hydro — to ensure that there’s a means and ways for industry to use their capital to install charging infrastructure, to allow electric vehicle users to swipe a credit card to pay for power that they want to pay for so that people will have incentive to install them, rather than requiring schools and hospitals and municipal halls and the Legislature and malls to pay for that?

Charging for parking does not work, because it is patently unfair unless you charge everyone for parking. You pay for the energy you use. Again, coming back to that. Will the minister work with industry — not with B.C. Hydro — to ensure that these can be installed in British Columbia like they can in most jurisdictions in the world?

Hon. M. Mungall: As I said, the ministry is already working with industry and being a mediator between industry and B.C. Utilities Commission on this very issue.

The member did ask that we not work with B.C. Hydro. Obviously, we will be working with our Crown corporation on this issue as well.

My statement on government’s ridesharing (non) announcement

In response to today’s government announcement concerning ridesharing, I issued the media statement reproduced below.

I am very disappointed that the government will not keep its promise to bring ridesharing to British Columbians by the end of this year. As I note in my statement, the creative economy and innovation are the future of our province. We cannot be tech innovators if we’re not willing to embrace innovation.


Media Statement


Weaver statement on government’s ridesharing announcement
For immediate release
October 16, 2017

VICTORIA, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, responded to the government’s announcement that it anticipates it will bring legislative changes to enable ridesharing in Fall 2018.

“I am very disappointed that the government will not keep its promise to bring ridesharing to British Columbians by the end of this year,” said Weaver.

“It has been five years since ridesharing was first introduced into B.C. There have since been reports that ridesharing companies are operating without proper oversight, regulation and insurance. Further, all three parties agreed to bring in ridesharing in the last election and have now had significant time to consult stakeholders and assess the various ramifications of regulating this industry in British Columbia.

“The creative economy and innovation are the future of our province. We cannot be tech innovators if we’re not willing to embrace innovation. As new technologies emerge, government should proactively examine the evidence and openly debate the issue in a timely manner so that we do not fall behind the curve.

“On Thursday, for the third time, I will introduce legislation that will enable ridesharing to finally operate in a regulated fashion in B.C. I hope both parties will take this opportunity to engage in a substantive debate on the details of this issue so that we can move past rhetoric and vague statements and finally get to work delivering for British Columbians.”

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Media contact
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | jillian.oliver@leg.bc.ca

On the need for more engineers to be trained in BC

At every level — undergraduate, master’s, and PhD, B.C. lags behind other provinces in terms of the number of engineers it graduates per capita.

Of the 9 provinces that offer engineering undergraduate degrees, BC ranks a dismal 8th. It ranks 7th in Masters and 6th in PhDs (see graphs below using data from Canadian Engineers for Tomorrow Share: Trends in Engineering Enrolment and Degrees Awarded 2011-2015).

Quebec and Ontario graduated 40% more undergraduate engineers per capita in 2015 than BC. They graduated 280% and 300%, respectively, more Masters Degrees per capita while Nova Scotia graduated 500% more per capita. And Quebec also graduates more than twice the number of PhDs per capita than BC.

In fact, BC is one of the lowest ranked jurisdictions in the world in terms of engineering PhDs awarded per capita. To compound this discrepancy further, BC has the strongest projected employment growth for engineers in Canada.

This is an unacceptable situation for a jurisdiction attempting to position itself as an innovator in the emerging 21st century economy. It’s particularly troubling as universities in BC are chomping at the bit to expand their offerings. For example, an exciting opportunity exists in Squamish to create a innovative centre for clean energy research, training and industry partnership. UNBC is also hoping to establish an engineering program to meet the demand for professional engineers in northern communities.

To pick up on this theme I asked the Minister of Advanced Education how her ministry was going to facilitate the development of these programs and increase the number of engineering graduates in British Columbia, and in particular, UNBC. As you will see from the video and text below, the BC Liberals were quite unruly during question period and had to be reprimanded by the Speaker a number of times.


Video of Exchange



Question


A. Weaver: At every level — undergraduate, master’s, and PhD, B.C. lags behind other provinces in the number of engineers it graduates per capita. Of the nine provinces that offer engineering undergraduate degrees, B.C. ranks a dismal eighth. It ranks seventh in master’s and sixth in PhDs. Quebec and Ontario graduated 40 percent more undergraduate engineers per capita in 2015 than B.C. They graduated 280 and 300 percent, respectively, more master’s degrees than B.C., while Nova Scotia graduated 500 percent more master’s degrees than B.C. Quebec has more than twice the number of PhD graduates. In fact, B.C. is one of the lowest-ranked jurisdictions in the world in terms of engineering PhDs per capita.

To compound this discrepancy further, B.C. has the strongest projected growth, for engineers in Canada. There are post-secondary institutions eager to fill the need. UNBC has been trying to get an undergraduate engineering program…

Mr. Speaker: Member, your question.

A. Weaver: …for years. The engineering department at UBC wants to build a tech campus in Squamish.

To the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, how is her ministry going to facilitate the development of these programs and increase the number of engineering grads in British Columbia?

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.


Answer


Interjection.

Hon. M. Mark: Sorry, what was that?

Interjection.

Hon. M. Mark: Yeah, exactly. It’s not you asking the question. I’m the one answering the question, through the Speaker.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

Hon. M. Mark: No, it’s okay. I’m used to this. I’m used to this circus on the other side. It has only been a week, but it’s been fun.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

Hon. M. Mark: I thank the member for Oak Bay–Gordon Head for the question.

Interjection.

Hon. M. Mark: Well, of course I do. I like to stand in this House as an advocate for post-secondary education. For the last 16 years…. In the first 21 days on the job, I had a chance to travel the province and hear from students and get to see STEM in action — science, technology, engineering and math.

We’re going to do something about this on this side of the House to send a message to students that we’re on their side, that we’re going to invest in their education. We’re going to invest in the tech sector.

We know that the tech sector is a $26 billion industry. Our friends on the other side of the House remind us that we’re not interested in jobs, but we need to make sure that we’re training people up. We’re going to make sure that those 100,000 people that are contributing to the economy are trained up in engineering. So we’re going to increase co-op placements. We’re going to increase apprenticeship placements. We’re going to make sure that the trade seats are relevant all across the province, not just select regions in the province.

I look forward to working with the member for Oak Bay–Gordon Head on increasing the seats in engineering in B.C.


Supplementary Question


A. Weaver: If ever there was any doubt why this boisterous bunch needed to be put in a time-out, today is the justification for that.

Interjections.

A. Weaver: In mathematics, hon. Speaker, “QED” is often used to demonstrate exactly what I was just saying.

UNBC has proven that if we train people in the north, they stay in the north. In fact, more than half of their 13,000 alumni live in the north, contributing to the society, culture and employment base. Engineering should be offered at UNBC. It would add to those figures.

I recognize that 16 years of rule by the Luddites opposite, who do not understand the importance of the new economy, abandoned rural B.C. and left them on the hook. They abandoned development in rural B.C….

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Member, please be seated for a moment.

Members, we are reminded that when someone is speaking, we will listen with good manners.

A. Weaver: My question to the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training is: what is your ministry doing to ensure vibrant educational opportunities are available across all disciplines in our northern communities, in order to allow these communities to take advantage of the emerging opportunities in the 21st century economy that have been left out because of 16 years of incompetent rule by the B.C. Liberals?


Answer


Hon. M. Mark: I’m so pleased to hear a question about post-secondary advocacy in this House, because it’s about time that we have a government that’s going to advocate for the students all across British Columbia and make sure that we have those seats available. It is unacceptable that that government brought us to eighth place, in this province….

Interjections.

Hon. M. Mark: Pardon me? It’s exciting in here. I love the excitement. It’s about time that people are standing up for post-secondary education instead of standing in the way.

We’re going to get to increasing those seats across B.C., up in UNBC. We’re going to make sure that we’re investing in jobs in the 21st century. We’re going to make sure that we’re not standing the way by increasing debt and tripling tuition, like what was done under the last government in 16 years.

We are going to stand beside the students in British Columbia, and we made those measures, in the first 60 days of forming government, by reducing student debt, by making sure that we increase seats for students in the trade sector and the engineering sectors. We’re standing beside students in this province, and we’re sending a message that we are going to invest in them, not stand in their way.

Removing Port Mann & Golden Ears bridge tolls is fiscally reckless

Today the BC NDP announced that they would be removing the tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges in Metro Vancouver effective September 1, 2017. While this may seem like a good idea at face value, it is profoundly troubling from a policy perspective.

In the 2017 election campaign the BC NDP announced that if elected they would scrap the tolls on these two bridges. The BC Liberals countered with a promise to limit tolls to $500/year. In their subsequent and bizarre throne speech this past summer they promised to remove this cap and eliminate the tolls entirely. The BC Greens were the only party to campaign on developing a rational tolling system through consultation with and municipalities across Metro Vancouver. We did not promise to eliminate the tolls.

Eliminating the tolls will come at a cost.

  1. $86 million for the rest of 2017/18 and $135 million annually thereafter for the Port Mann bridge
  2. $34 million for the rest of 2017/18 and likely more than $120 million annually thereafter for the Golden Ears bridge. Because this bridge is owned by Translink, the government will have to negotiate a long-term solution.
  3. 180 people will lose their jobs
  4. The outstanding debt for the Port Mann Bridge is $3.6 billion; the outstanding debt for the Golden Ears Bridge is $1.1 billion. $4.7 billion will now be moved from self supporting debt to taxpayer supported debt.

Increasing taxpayer supported debt is worrying. The Province’s borrowing rates are largely determined by our credit rating and overall taxpayer supported debt load. Increasing this debt load risks the potential of downgrading our credit rating which in term would increase borrowing rates on the entire provincial debt.

More than $250 million annually will now have to come from other sources. This is money that is desperately needed in health care, public education, and social services.

Eliminating tolls will increase congestion in Metro Vancouver as more people turn to their cars. It sends precisely the wrong message to commuters who may now opt out of public transit.

Finally, the introduction of user-pay systems to support the construction of major infrastructure projects is well established as an efficient means of advancing such projects in a timely fashion. When the infrastructure is paid off, the tolls are removed. This is how the Coquihalla highway was built in BC. In fact, those who have visited Quebec, Ontario, PEI, or Nova Scotia will have experienced tolling on various bridges and roads.

Today’s announcement fulfilled what can only be described as a desperate attempt by the BC NDP to pander to voters south of the Fraser. Their justification of fairness is shallow. Residents of Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands or Haida Gwaii will point out that the BC Ferries are part of our highway system. A compelling case of fairness could be made to  argue that all ferry fares should be eliminated (there are already no fares on the inland ferries in the Kootenays). Obviously this won’t happen.

How would the rest of BC react if the BC Green Party campaigned on eliminating the fares on all BC Ferries. I suggest that there would be outrage – and rightly so – in the face of this reckless approach to public policy.

Below is the media statement I released today on this topic.


Media Statement


Weaver statement on government’s decision to remove bridge tolls
For Immediate Release
August 25, 2017

VICTORIA, BC – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green caucus, issued the following statement today in response to the government’s removal of tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears Bridges.

“It’s unfortunate that the government has decided to proceed with this reckless policy,” said Weaver.

“There is no question that the affordability crisis facing so many British Columbians is a significant concern. However, this policy is high cost and low impact. There are lots of good, high return-on-investments decisions that government can make, such as education, student housing and child care. It is disappointing that the first major measure that this government has taken to make life more affordable for British Columbians will add billions of dollars to taxpayer-supported debt. Moreover, making such a massive addition to our debt risks raising interest on all debt, which ultimately prevents government from being able to invest more in important social programs.

“Tolls are an excellent policy tool to manage transport demand. Transport demand management reduces pollution and emissions, alleviates congestion and helps pay for costly infrastructure. That’s why, at the negotiating table when preparing our Confidence and Supply Agreement, we ensured that a commitment was included to work with the Mayors’ Council consultation process to find a more fair and equitable way of funding transit for the long-term. We look forward to that commitment being met so that British Columbians can have an evidence-based, truly fair approach to this file.”

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Media contact
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | jillian.oliver@leg.bc.ca ​

My statement on the Fair Wages Commission announcement

Today the government announced its intention to use a new at-arm’s-length Fair Wages Commission to establish a pathway to a minimum wage of at least $15 per hour. The Fair Wages Commission will further be tasked with overseeing regular rate reviews. The commission will bring forward recommendations regarding strategies to address the discrepancy between minimum wages and livable wages. It will make its first report on a new minimum wage within 90 days of its first meeting.

The establishment of a Fair Wages Commission was a key element of the B.C. Greens 2017 election platform and was included in the Confidence and Supply Agreement (CASA).  Below I provide my comments on the BC Government’s announcement.


Media Statement


Weaver statement on Fair Wages Commission announcement
For immediate release
August 15, 2017

VICTORIA, BC – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green caucus, issued the following statement today in response to the government’s announcement that it plans to use the Fair Wages Commission to achieve a minimum wage of $15/hour by 2021. The establishment of a Fair Wages Commission was a key element of the B.C. Greens 2017 election platform and was included in the Confidence and Supply Agreement (CASA) signed by Dr. Weaver and Premier Horgan.

“Although I am pleased to see an important piece of our agreement move forward, I am concerned that the apparent addition of a 2021 timeline is prejudicial to the work of the Fair Wages Commission. The Commission falls under the Confidence and Supply Agreement between the BC NDP and BC Green caucuses. The 2021 timeline had not been agreed upon and is, in fact, contradictory to the intention of depoliticizing the Fair Wages Commission.

“The Fair Wages Commission should determine the timeline for minimum wage increases based on evidence and through consultation with stakeholders. The Commission must consult with small businesses, which are the backbone of our economy, to ensure they can continue to thrive. The timeline and wage increases should not be made for political purposes and should not be arbitrarily set in advance.

“British Columbians are facing skyrocketing costs of living and increasing income insecurity as the economy changes rapidly. Minimum wage is just one way we can move towards all British Columbians having a liveable income. The Fair Wages Commission must be empowered to make recommendations at arms-length based on evidence to ensure that wage increases create better income security for all British Columbians.”

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Media contact
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | jillian.oliver@leg.bc.ca