Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Dermod Travis Headshot

B.C. Government Masters The Art Of Political Spin

Posted: Updated:
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Canadians have come to expect that politicians will take a few liberties with facts as they spin issues to suit their purpose.

A master practitioner of the art form is the B.C. government, with spin that can be light in the accuracy department.

One example is a recent letter to the editor in the East Kootenay News Online Weekly by Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett.

Bennett wrote: "Each year Hydro-Quebec publishes a study that compares electricity rates... Last year's study showed that the average (monthly) bill for a B.C. household using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity (kWh) was $143. In Halifax, a typical bill is $223 and in Ottawa the average is $207."

Seems he mistook a "comparative index of prices" on page nine with dollars.

The actual monthly bills from page 31: Vancouver ($103), Halifax ($160) and Ottawa ($149).

Bennett went on to add, "adjusting for inflation, electricity costs the same today in B.C. as it did back in 1976."

Can't speak to 1976 -- he didn't cite a source -- but I can for 2007, using those same Hydro-Quebec studies.

In 2007, the bill for Vancouver was $67 for 1,000 kWh, $129 (2,000) and $192 (3,000) on page 23 of 56. Vancouver was the second most affordable of 11 Canadian cities for all three scenarios.

If rates had kept pace with inflation, they would have been $76, $147 and $218 in 2015. Instead, they were $103, $228 and $354.

Vancouver fell to third place for lowest bill (1,000 kWh) and plummeted to seventh place out of 12 cities in the 2,000 and 3,000 kWh scenarios.

Earlier this month -- in response to B.C. auditor general Carol Bellringer's audit of compliance and enforcement of the mining sector -- the government announced it was "accepting all recommendations with the exception of one."

Seems accepting and implementing are not always the same thing.

Bellringer's office was in the midst of the audit when the tailings pond at the Mount Polley Mine breached in 2014.

One recommendation that Bennett accepted was "(safeguarding) taxpayers by ensuring the reclamation liability estimate is accurate and that the security held by government is sufficient to cover potential costs."

Seems accepting and implementing are not always the same thing.

Here's what B.C. auditor general Wayne Strelioff wrote in 2002 on the subject: "For the sites identified as requiring bonding, we found the bonding amount held by the province is substantially less than the estimated remediation costs. This exposes the province to considerable financial risk.

In 2000, the unfunded liability was $228 million.

The government of the day, called Strelioff's report "a useful guide," promising to work with B.C.'s comptroller general on the issue.

Here's what Bellringer had to say: "We recommend that government safeguard taxpayers by ensuring the reclamation liability estimate is accurate and that the security held is sufficient to cover potential costs."

Bellringer estimated the unfunded liability at $1.2 billion.

B.C. is the only province to impose a monthly premium for health care. At $150 per month for a family of three or more (with an annual income of $30,000), it's a touchy subject.

This past New Year's Eve -- hours before MSP premiums were slated to rise by 4.2 per cent -- the government boasted that "approximately 800,000 residents pay no MSP premiums at all."

In an op-ed following the release of the provincial budget in February, Finance Minister Mike de Jong wrote: "These changes to MSP premiums mean that 45,000 people will no longer pay premiums at all... Once the changes have been implemented, nearly two million British Columbians will pay no premiums at all."

Call it new math.

Minister for Natural Gas Development Rich Coleman returned from Japan last month where -- according to the government's news release -- he tried "to help strengthen B.C.'s working relationship with LNG partners headquartered in Tokyo."

The release noted that Japan "is the world's largest LNG importer and is looking for opportunities to diversify the country's energy portfolio."

It may be a case of a day late and a dollar short.

Coleman should have taken Accenture Strategy Consulting's March 2016 report, Gas Grows Up, with him to read on the plane.

Two lines that jump off the page: "Recent announcements by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) indicate that Japanese natural gas consumption could settle at 84 bcm by 2030. This is almost 32 per cent less than the LNG imported in 2014."

The charm offensive hasn't worked out so well. Last week, Japan's Idemitsu Kosan Co. stopped work on the Triton liquefied natural gas project in northern B.C.

Maybe it's time for the government's LNG spin to grow up, too.

And that "on time and on budget" -- which no one buys any longer -- should really be replaced with "behind schedule and over budget."

Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook


Mount Polley Mine Tailings Pond Breach
Share this
Current Slide