With the beginning of October, MLAs are back in the legislature. For the first time in a long time, we’re having a fall session. Prior to this session the BC Liberal government had us sit for a mere 24 days out of 16 months. So as you can imagine, I am very glad to be getting back to the house to raise your concerns and address the issues important to this region.
One issue that I am hearing more and more about is smart meters. Since Sept. 30 when the Union of BC Municipalities passed a motion calling for a moratorium on BC Hydro’s installation of these devices, the issue has really picked up steam. A major provincial organization whose membership is comprised of local leaders made a clear statement that reflects what they are hearing on the ground. Smart meters are controversial and are being instituted with no public consultation at a price tag of $1 billion. In response, local governments wisely said to slow down and take a better look at this decision. The Liberals responded by saying “Too bad, we’re doing it anyway.”
I have to say that it is frustrating enough that the Liberals ignore the countless petitions NDP members have presented in the legislature and the facts we present during debates, but to see them ignore the pleas of local governments and citizens is outrageous. After the way they handled the HST, you would expect them to have learned their lesson.
Some of the issues the NDP has been raising start with the $1 billion price tag to force smart meters into peoples’ homes. If we are going to spend this much of your tax dollars on something, it had better do something amazing. The claim is that smart meters will cause a reduction in energy consumption and reward those who use energy in off-peak hours. However, when we look at other jurisdictions, this just isn’t the case.
Last year, my NDP colleague John Horgan, MLA for Juan de Fuca and Opposition critic for energy, noted in a press release that “the Ontario experience has shown that smart meters don’t work when it comes to conserving energy and saving money. Instead, they are proving to do just the opposite.” In Toronto alone, 84 per cent of residents’ bills went up as a result of smart meters.
Supporting home retrofits, public transit and stronger emissions standards have better results for energy conservation and saving people money. Just think how much we could have done with $1 billion.
Not only should the public have been consulted on smart meters since they are being forced into private homes, but there should have been some public oversight in reviewing such a major capital expenditure by our public utility.
If there had, I might not be even writing this column. However, the Liberals meddled with the BC Utilities Commission and removed its ability to review such expenditures. Instead of ignoring community leaders, the premier’s response after the UBCM resolution should have been to send the $1 billion project to the independent BCUC for review.
My NDP colleagues and I will continue to raise this issue in the house. In advance, I thank you for continuing to share with me your concerns on this and many other issues.
Michelle Mungall is the member of the legislative assembly for the Nelson-Creston provincial riding, and is the Opposition critic for advanced education, youth and labour market development.