Liberal energy minister contradicting Premier’s promise that Hydro rates will not go up: NDP

Premier Christy Clark’s own energy minister is contesting her claims that British Columbians’ electricity bills will not go up because of the Liberals’ mismanagement of BC Hydro, say New Democrats.

“Energy Minister Bill Bennett is now confirming the New Democrats’ prediction that British Columbians will pay for the Liberals’ mismanagement of BC Hydro through hydro rate increases. Bennett is saying on the public record ‘everyone in government recognizes that rates are going to have to go up’ because of BC Hydro’s growing debt,” said New Democrat leader Adrian Dix.

“This admission comes on the heels of Premier Clark claiming she wouldn’t raise hydro rates both before the general election and on the by-election campaign trail. As late as last Friday, the Premier was publicly denying in Kelowna that ratepayers would pay the price for BC Hydro’s debt.”

Last week, news broke about BC Hydro incurring a massive $342 million cost over-run on the Northwest Transmission Line – an 84 per cent increase over the original project cost.

“This significant overrun is the product of Liberal political interference. They prevented the B.C. Utilities Commission from scrutinizing the project plan for the Northwest Transmission Line (NTL),” said John Horgan, New Democrat energy critic.

Horgan added that when the Premier was claiming she would not raise hydro rates during the general election campaign, some of the Premier’s chief political advisors were very aware of the NTL’s growing cost.

“For example, Brad Bennett, a member of the BC Hydro board, is part of the board committee responsible for overseeing capital projects. Shortly before joining Premier Clark on the election campaign, he and others oversaw the price of NTL increase in February. They also oversaw the latest cost overrun on the project which was announced after the election,” said Horgan.

This significant overrun is in addition to the $4.3 billion dollars of hydro debt the Clark Liberal government has tried to hide in deferral accounts.

“The Premier has spent months campaigning on a debt free B.C. But using deferral accounts to hide debt does not eliminate it,” said Horgan.

“Furthermore, the budget tabled last Thursday shows that the Clark Liberals are increasing the provincial government’s debt by unprecedented amounts. Instead of debt-free, they are going in the opposite direction with a debt spree,” said Dix.