Campbell legacy keeps on giving . . . pain

Basking in the soft glow of my community newspaper “gold” award for column writing

Basking in the soft glow of my community newspaper “gold” award for column writing, I particularly enjoy the fact that one of my articles that found favour with the judges was an angry denunciation of the awarding of the Order of B.C. (OBC) to former premier Gordon Campbell.

As luck would have it, the September 2011 column headline: “Campbell retains power to inspire outrage” also serves as the theme of this week’s offering.

In the September piece, I observed that in judging Campbell’s worthiness to receive the prestigious OBC, we should reflect on his last two years in office … “two years of costly turmoil rooted in his arrogant belief that election commitments about taxation policy and the attendant obligation to consult with the public were fetters to be borne by lesser political mortals.”

Indeed, history will show that Campbell’s worst public policy brainwaves were concocted on the back of napkins and became our headaches by virtue of his absolute scorn for the concept of consultative governance. This is Campbell’s legacy; his gift to voters at large and to the decimated B.C. Liberal Party. And, it is proving to be a gift that keeps on giving.

With the B.C. Rail, carbon tax and HST failures still pumping smoke and fire from Mount Gordo, another Campbell initiative — B.C. Hydro’s billion dollar Smart Meter program — is forming a lava dome ready to blow up in the face of the hapless Liberals.

Campbell became a Smart Meter disciple after what passes for an insightful moment of Maui poolside vacation research. Pass the napkin, he shouted. Apparently, the moment the premier got home Hydro was directed to begin implementing the Smart Meter program. In keeping with Campbell’s aversion to input, there would be no oversight by the B.C. Utilities Commission, the regulatory body charged with adjudicating Hydro activities.

The first significant public push back came at last year’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention where a resolution was adopted calling for “a moratorium on the mandatory installation of wireless Smart Meter until the major issues and problems … are independently assessed.”

Since then more than 30 individual municipalities — including Victoria, all the Saanich municipalities and Colwood — have passed anti-smart meter resolutions and more than 10,000 Hydro customers have stopped, or plan to stop, Smart Meter installers from coming onto their property.

These protests notwithstanding, nothing has slowed Hydro on its mission to install 1.8 million meters by the end of this year. Up to the beginning of 2012 the debate was largely centred on health safety issues and most Hydro customers could not be bothered engaging in the electro-magnetic pros and cons of metering.

Then hundreds of Hydro customers with shiny new smart meters started getting slammed with unwarranted billing increases and suddenly Hydro and the post-Campbell Liberals had the full attention of British Columbia.

Hydro has pumped out volumes of excuses for the billing increases. Most of them spin off the central theme that electricity customers are idiots who have not been paying attention to their energy consumption. In support, Energy Minister Rich Coleman has dismissed stories of over-billing as “urban myth.”

As Hydro gets closer to its ambitious installation goals for this year, I anticipate we will see the number of Smart Meter complaints grow in reverse proportion to the amount of time left before the May 2013 election.

And the Liberals thought they could outrun the Campbell legacy. M