Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Run of river projects lead to ruins

Jesse Ferreras presented some very cogent points in his article "Water War." There are some I wish to emphasize.

Jesse Ferreras presented some very cogent points in his article "Water War." There are some I wish to emphasize. The first is that we, the citizens of British Columbia, are indeed being robbed by private corporations, with the specific permission being given for them to do so by the Liberal government of Mr. Campbell. In his Energy Plan of 2002 B.C. Hydro, the publicly-owned corporation established by W.A.C. Bennett, is prohibited from generating electricity in any new sites, with the possible exception of Site C on the Peace River. Now, only private for-profit corporations are permitted to do that. This is a gift to the friends of of this Liberal government and is based on the ideology that public ownership is bad, and the public commons should be handed over to private individuals for them to make a profit.

Mr. Protter's ex cathedra assertions, made with no substantiation, are not worthy of any consideration. As a spokesman on behalf of B.C. IPPs he  presumably feels obliged to speak out.

Mr. Carter is correct when he is reported as saying that those on the side of totally public power have a valid point. He recognized that the  fundamental issue is indeed the public versus the private ownership of power. It cannot be emphasized enough that all the money paid by us in our monthly hydro bills, that has been more than what B.C. Hydro needed to conduct their operation of generating, transmitting, and distributing electricity, has been given to the provincial treasury to be used for health care, education, social services, transportation, etc. Since B.C. Hydro has been established this has amounted to several hundred million dollars each and every year. Now, a proportion of that money will go - and in the case of the Rutherford Creek, for example, is already going - towards the private profit of companies like General Electric of America. In the case of the Ryan River proposal it would go to Manulife of Ontario. It leaves our province, and in some instances, our country.

The legislation governing the operation of the Environmental Assessment Office is faulty. They are not obliged to seek the views of the local citizens about a proposed project, prior to the proponent making a substantial investment. Were this to be done unacceptable projects would be halted. Equally inappropriate, the staff of the EAO have no mandate to consider more than one individual project at a time. Only B.C. Hydro would be able to establish an overall plan to determine the impact to a multiplicity of so called run of the river projects - in many cases ruin of the river - on the environment of the province.

This is an unconscionable failure of the Liberal government of Mr. Campbell, elected by us British Columbians, to care for our interests. Who do they think is their constituency? Who do they think they are answerable to? Private companies, some of them not even Canadian?

Mr. Ferreras is right when he draws attention to the provincial election of May 12. None of us who make our honest payment to our publicly-owned B.C. Hydro need any more of Mr. Campbell. Vote him out!

Hamish Nichol

Who speaks for the Environment?

Jesse Ferreras did an excellent job reporting on run of river hydropower projects in Water Wars.

His article does raise the question, Who Speaks for the Environment? There are several Canadian environmental organizations to choose from when seeking a knowledgeable opinion on renewable energy and other industries.

As a professional biologist who has conducted numerous environmental impact assessments I have encountered some of these organizations in public open houses and hearings. In these forums, organizations such as Sierra Legal Defense and the David Suzuki Foundation typically have legal experts and biologists attend and raise their concerns intelligently and professionally to affect the process and outcome at hand.

By contrast, I have been at meetings attended by Western Canada Wilderness Committee executives, none of whom have legal or scientific credentials and who yell obscenities and orchestrate their members to intimidate speakers and simply try to derail public processes.

It would be very helpful if the media would first evaluate the credibility of the spokespeople they seek out when looking for comments on the environment. Look for organizations who employ accredited professionals, such as engineers and professional biologists who are bound by legislation and a code of ethics to act responsibly and truthfully.

Likewise, people might want to do the same when they decide which organizations they will fund.

Iain Cuthbert,
Registered Professional Biologist

Vital sources overlooked

If you drink water, use electricity, pay taxes or plan on living in B.C. for the next couple decades, there may be no more important issue than IPPs, so Mr. Ferreras's article last week was a welcome addition to the debate. It was disappointing, however, that several vital sources of information do not seem to have been part of the research.

SFU professor Dr. John Calvert, for example, has literally written the book on the IPP issue in B.C. (Liquid Gold). And Dr. Marvin Shaffer, former head of the B.C. Utilities Commission, did a detailed review of the transmission issue in Lost In Transmission. There is also a rebuttal of these two gentlemen's research commissioned by the IPP industry and written by Dr. Mark Jaccard. It is a shame that none of these seem to have been consulted for this article.

Another aspect worth considering would have been the statement by Professional Agrologist and Resource Economist Wendy R. Holm that, "Private sector firms issued water licenses by government - be it for hydroelectric generation or for snowmaking - hold NAFTA rights far superior to any rights held by Canadians if those firms are American or have American investors."

What are the implications here? We simply don't know, and that is cause enough for alarm. But since these IPPs (including the local one on the Cheakamus River) are already being sold off to large and distant corporations, and U.S. firms have clearly demonstrated their willingness to use NAFTA to challenge Canadian laws, it's something we'd better consider.

Finally, I was surprised that Mr. Protter's claim that the private sector can construct these projects cheaper than B.C. Hydro was presented without challenge. As a proponent of IPPs, it is undoubtedly in Mr. Protter's interest to make this claim, but neither he nor Mr. Ferreras offered any evidence to support it. And I find it highly unlikely that any private corporation could finance these projects more cheaply than a huge public utility like B.C. Hydro.

There is a fundamental difference between the private and public approach to these run-of-river projects in B.C. And it has nothing to do with the "Green" label, which could be applied no matter who constructs the plants.

The difference is that if B.C. Hydro builds them, we, the citizens of B.C., own them and share the profits. If private corporations build them, we basically rent them and pay for the profits.

Kind of like the difference between renting in Whistler and owning your own home. Which affords more security?

Van Powel

Silence is frightening
Why isn't anyone talking about how the Electoral Map, under the proposed Single Transferrable Voting System (STV), will change MLA representation in B.C.?

According to the government's Referendum Information Office, the number of electoral districts will shrink from 85 to 20. Districts will be much larger and elect from two to seven MLAs each.

For example, the Capital Region (Victoria) will be the largest in the province. It will encompass all municipalities in Victoria and vicinity, as well as those in Port Renfrew, Jordan, Galiano Island, Salt Spring Island, North Saanich, Sidney, Sooke, Metchosin and the Highlands. In such a huge riding, successful candidates could be elected with as little as 15 per cent of the popular vote.

How does any of this make sense? And why isn't such a significant change getting any attention from the media?

It's time for someone to publish the proposed new electoral maps so that voters everywhere will know what their new electoral district will be and have some understanding about how much local representation will be diluted under STV. Check it out at

John Amon

Council disappoints
I am a little disappointed, to say the least, with the way the vote went on if our mayor and council members should enjoy a wage increase or do a wage freeze. In this day and age and this economy, you would think that a vote done between our mayor and council members would have gone the other way.

Shame on council to vote in favour of giving themselves a raise when others are losing their jobs. And then to compare us to Vancouver and what they earn. We are not Vancouver, nor are we even close in size to Vancouver. Maybe the RMOW should find another, more suitable sized town to compare us to.

There are a lot of people who will not even receive a cost of living increase this year. There are a lot of people who work two jobs just to survive in this town and this economy. Have you forgotten that the world is in the middle of a downturn, that budgets are not balanced and the taxpayers are going to take the brunt of this?

And then, to read in the paper, that our taxes are not only going up, but are going up even more because of expanding services. What expanding services are we getting? Or should I ask, what services might be cut? I'd rather see the services that we have maintained than expanded.

I don't recall any type of contact about this issue, at our house, be it a phone call or a letter, asking me about the tax increases and what I, as a taxpayer might be able to afford or what I might get out of the tax increase. How much did it cost to do that survey? And how many people were actually contacted? I have asked a few people and they too did not receive the call. And the ones that did, the call came while people where trying to enjoy the Super Bowl. Nice time to call.

To top it off, now we are taking over the Celebration Site. Thanks VANOC for screwing us over and thank you and council for allowing it. Yes, you mentioned before that the $9.2 million is secure, but big deal, because it is going to cost us more than that as we have seen in the past. Nothing so far has come on budget or under.

So again, I am sure our taxes will go up to deal with yet another cost overrun. I hope council members enjoy the raise and the money.

Paula Palmer

Having been one of the many, unfortunate families that was affected by the recent closure of the infant/toddler programs at the Spring Creek Daycare Centre in Whistler, now, just months later, we have been told that the Bear Cubs Pre-school program will also close, as the centre cannot survive financially on that program alone.

Feelings of frustration, disillusionment and a true feeling of sadness overwhelm not only the families of Spring Creek, but the staff also. Only a short time ago, the centre was a vibrant, lively place full of children and dedicated teachers. Who would have thought it would turn into an empty, lonely building with closed doors on Feb. 28.

Coming from a country that provides free pre-school places for all 3-5 year olds, I find it astonishing that a country like Canada places absolutely no emphasis on early childhood education or the provision of quality daycare facilities, and basically abandons all the families that benefit from such care.

Not only have families been abandoned by the federal government when they drastically cut funding to daycares, and gave us an insulting amount of $100 per month per child, which by the way is taxable and will basically cover the cost of a babysitter for one day, but we have also been abandoned by the provincial government and our own municipality who cannot or will not help our cause.

In a place like Whistler, spending millions of dollars on Olympic venues and showcasing our town to the world, you should be ashamed that the families that are the very backbone of this community have no where to turn for the extra funding needed to keep our daycares open and our children safe. Generally, the families that use daycare are the ones who need it most - those who have to go to work to survive.

So, a daycare will sit empty. Families will struggle to find adequate care for their precious children so they can go out to work. Where is the sense in it all?

Adele Ferguson

No communication on Symphony
First of all I would like to say how fantastic a resort Whistler Blackcomb truly is, wonderful friendly staff, outstanding network of pistes and amazing off-piste.

However you recently dropped the ball, unfortunately I am writing to express my extreme dissatisfaction at the events that occurred while I was stranded on a broken chairlift for over two hours! Mechanical/electrical issues are difficult to predict, and will happen, but the way in which this one was dealt with afterwards left significant room for improvement.

On Monday, Feb. 2, I was on the Symphony Express Chairlift when it broke down, and was then left stranded on it for over two hours while we waited for the fault to be rectified. During this time, there was no communication from any of your staff, be it ski-patrol, lift attendants, etc. in order to at least explain what was happening.

A small bit of communication with those people sitting in the cold would have gone a long way to reducing the frustration. Would it have been that difficult to send someone down every 30 to 40 minutes to keep people updated?

Then to add insult to injury, when the lift attendants eventually managed to get the lift moving again, though at a painfully slow rate, our arrival at the top of the lift only led to more disappointment. There were no hot drinks waiting, no food, and no cat-track to ferry people back to base, despite it being over 90 minutes later than the appointed closing time for the lift on that day. Surely the lift station at the top of the mountain could be stocked with trail bars, paper cups and sachets for making hot chocolate/coffee/tea, in the event of such an occurrence.

As a keen outdoors-person, the fact that these basics have been overlooked is nothing short of disgraceful, and shows extreme negligence. Surely there is a plan in place for such unfortunate occurrences?

Lastly your apology of a free day pass, valid for this season only, is somewhat of a cop-out. Most of the people on the mountain will have a pass to cover the duration of their stay, and thus in reality you're offering nothing.

Brendan Barry
Carrigaline, Ireland

Our motto
Isn't it great to have some fresh snow? This would also be a good time to thank the groomers for the terrific job they've done for us during the recent drought. With a bare minimum amount of snow, they somehow were able to keep pushing it back into place for us each night and give us unblemished corduroy to play with the next day.

Standing O, everybody! Remember: In Groomers We Trust.

Jamie Pike

Words of thanks

We have just completed the seventh annual Literary Leanings, an event in The Whistler Winter Arts Festival co-presented by Whistler Arts Council and Cultural Olympiad Vancouver 2010.

The festival is supported by the Resort Municipality of Whistler, Cultural Capitals of Canada (through Canadian Heritage) and CTV.

The Whistler Winter Arts Festival was created in 2003 to build capacity and create excitement for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. In 2010, the festival will become a part of the Whistler Celebration Sites program.

On behalf of the Vicious Circle, Whistler's Writers group, I would like to extend my thanks to the following organizations and individuals for their incredible and steadfast support.

1. The Squamish Lil'Wat Cultural Centre, specifically Gwen Baudisch and
Sara Goodwin,
2. The Four Seasons Hotel,
3. The staff and board of the Whistler Arts Council,
4. The Holiday Inn, specifically Erin Seymour,
5. Dan and the staff at Armchair Books,
6. The Pique Newmagazine, specifically Holly Fraughton,
7. The Question, specifically Jennifer Miller,
8. The Vicious Circle Board for getting behind this event with elbow grease, advice and plain hard work.

Finally, I would like to thank you, the public for your continued interest in the literary arts. This sold out event was a huge success, as is the fully subscribed green Circle scribblers' course. Without your support these events would not be possible. Thank you so much.

To stay up to date with literary events as soon as tickets are released, for weekly creative writing exercises and the latest from the word-nerd world, join the Vicious Circle online community at

See you at the Whistler Readers and Writers Festival in September 2009 (Sept. 11th through 13th).

Stella L. Harvey
Founder, The Vicious Circle