Who do you believe?
Richard Neufeld, B.C. Minister of Energy and Mines, In response to what he calls the “frenzied speculation” about B.C. Hydro, said in his letter to The Daily News “All of the Crown corporation’s existing generation, transmission, and distribution assets — all the wires and dams — will continue to be owned by the people of British Columbia (November 14).”
On the same day, B.C. Liberal Paul Nettleton said the opposite. He said that his government’s secret plans are to privatize B.C. Hydro. The Liberal’s “ultimate goal is the wholesale privatization of the utility,” he said in his letter to colleagues. Honesty doesn’t pay, as Nettleton found after he was tossed out of the Liberal caucus.
Regardless of who you believe, the horse is already out of the barn. You will notice that Minister Neufeld carefully avoids mention of privatization of B.C. Hydro’ customer service. That’s because it has already been done. The Liberals have handed one-third of B.C. Hydro over to a company with a dubious track record called Accenture.
Accenture will “assume BC Hydro’s Customer Services . . . IT services provided by Westech, Network Computing Services, HR Services, Financial Systems, Purchasing, Disbursement Services, Property Services, Business and Office Services,” according to B.C. Hydro’s web site.
Accenture has been blacklisted by California’s state treasurer for questionable business practices such as relocating to offshore tax havens. Accenture, recently known as Anderson Consulting, is a multinational consulting company based in Bermuda which has come under fire for its dealings in jurisdictions across North America.
The Ontario Auditor General slammed Accenture and the Ontario government in 2001 for a deal to take over a government program which resulted in massive cost over-runs. The government paid Accenture $193 million to slash their welfare system. The B.C. Liberals should have known of Accenture’s sleazy background.
“The BC government should follow California’s lead and stop the deal to take over key services from BC Hydro,” says Rudy Lawrence, a spokesperson for the B.C. Citizens for Public Power. You may have seen their ads in the Daily News.
They want support for a class action lawsuit against the government of B.C. to prevent them from privatizing and deregulating B.C. Hydro. The supporters of the B.C. Citizens for Public Power include the Union of B.C. Municipalities, the Council of Canadians, Labour, seniors, consumers, environmentalists, and community groups.
Social Credit premier W.A.C. Bennett had the vision to expropriate the existing power utility in 1961 and create B.C. Hydro. It belongs to the citizens of B.C. and the Liberals have no right to give it away.
Just what are Liberals trying to fix when they meddle with our dam power? “What is it that’s broke with a system that’s providing cheap, reliable electricity, that’s paying sizeable dividends to the government?” says David Freeman, energy expert and chair of the California Power Authority.
Ideology is your answer, Mr. Freeman. B.C. Hydro represents a socialist threat in the mind of Premier Campbell. It wouldn’t matter that we have cheapest, best run electrical utility in North America. Don’t confuse Campbell with the facts.
The facts differ from ideology, as the Conservative government of Ontario is finding out. After allowing private marketing of electricity, the cost has skyrocketed for homeowners and business alike.
Ontario restaurant owner Mike Jaznik’s last hydro bill was $5,000 — twice what it was before. “We just can’t turn around and increase our prices, and we can’t, we certainly can’t eat the prices. It just doesn’t make sense,” says Jaznik.
No, it doesn’t make sense until you realize that right-wing governments are willing to sacrifice well run public utilities in the altar of ideology.
You would have thought that Ontario would have learned something from Alberta’s experience. “They’re botching it up in ways similar to the way we botched it up,” Frank Atkins, an economist at the University of Calgary.
Alberta broke up the province’s three power monopolies starting in 1996, promising lower prices and more stable supplies. Albertans saw their power bills triple. The province gave consumers a rebate for a year to cushion the blow, but prices are still unstable and high.
“We keep asking the question, ‘why do governments keep doing it?'” says Jim Walkawich of the Edmonton Consumers Association. Ideology is your answer, Jim.