In-Sights: What’s good for the BC Liberals may not be good for BC Hydro

An article by Dermod Travis of Integrity BC. First published February 15, 2016, repeated here with permission.

One of the last things anyone would ever imagine the B.C. government doing is adopting an old NDP program, but that’s exactly what Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett did this month when he announced a five-year, $300 million hydro bill deferment plan for 13 mines owned by six companies.

Never mind that B.C. Hydro is already grappling with its own deferral problems to the tune of $5 billion.

Make no mistake, there’s a price to pay when B.C. Hydro becomes a political arm of government. The intertwining of self-interests gets complicated, while the interests of ratepayers can take a backseat to political interests.

Three of the six companies in Bennett’s deal were highlighted in a December Financial Post article, “Debt risks mount as Canada’s base metal miners sink deep in the hole.”

One could argue that the headline alone justifies Bennett’s move, except there’s no guarantee – other than a hope and a prayer – that B.C. Hydro will be repaid.

The issue of what happens if metal prices don’t rebound wasn’t addressed in Bennett’s news release.

Consider the “dire financial position” of one of the companies: Colorado-based Thompson Creek Metals.

Last year, Deutsche Bank analyst Jorge Beristain said the company is “quickly approaching an end-game” with debts of $832 million US.

According to the Financial Post, Teck Resources “has more than $3.5 billion US of debt coming due between 2017 and 2023 and lost its investment-grade credit rating last year.”

Taseko Mines, “has more than $260 million of senior notes coming due in 2019, while a $30-million US secured loan matures this May.”

It seems like only yesterday that the company sent Bennett off to lobby Ottawa on its behalf.

In January 2014, Bennett spent a day on Parliament Hill meeting with Natural Resources minister Joe Oliver and Industry minister James Moore to make Taseko’s case for its controversial New Prosperity copper and gold project.

By then copper prices had already fallen 27.5 per cent off their 2011 high.

Taseko is also in the midst of a messy proxy fight with Chicago-based Raging River Capital over $26 million in management fees Taseko has paid Hunter Dickinson Inc. Taseko and Hunter Dickinson share three directors in common.

Imperial Metals owns three of the 13 mines in Bennett’s deal, including Mount Polley, Red Chris and Huckleberry. In 2004, the government quietly forgave $3 million in liabilities owed it by Huckleberry Mine.

Imperial Metals’s controlling shareholder – Murray Edwards – has a net worth of $2.69 billion.

The B.C. Liberal party has done well from them.

From 2005 to 2014, the six companies donated $2.8 million to the party. Key executives kicked-in another $380,000.

Three of the six companies donated $97,010 to the NDP, $75,300 of it in 2013.

B.C. Hydro’s contractual obligations with private power producers have ballooned from $22.25 billion in 2009 for “2010 and beyond” to $56.2 billion for “2016 and beyond.”

It’s the gift that keeps on giving for everyone involved, except ratepayers.

In a 2008 call for independent power projects, 75 proponents registered with B.C. Hydro.

Forty-three submitted proposals and, in 2010, B.C. Hydro signed purchase agreements with 18 of the proponents.

From July 1, 2008 to September 30, 2010 – when B.C. Hydro was making its decisions – 14 proponents donated $268,461 to the Liberals. One donated $1,000 to the NDP.

Ten of the 14 signed purchase agreements with B.C. Hydro. One of the 14 who didn’t, never donated again.

Their before and after donations are interesting too.

For the 10 successful proponents, their donations more than doubled from $112,801 (January 2005 to June 2008) to $229,471.
After the deals were done, they settled back again. Seven donated $112,345 to the Liberals and five gave $16,225 to the NDP (2010 to 2014).

In 2008, the Mining Association of B.C. received a $295,188 grant from the Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT) to make the business case for the Northwest Transmission Line.

In turn, the association hired Australia-based Macquarie Bank to “determine the threshold of economic activity that would be required to make the construction of the (line) an economically viable infrastructure project.”

NDIT’s Highway 37 Power Line Coalition has 22 private sector partners.

Excluding the six companies in Bennett’s deferral program, independent power producers and those identified by B.C. Hydro as “potential future mines” for the transmission line, three trade associations and ten of the companies donated $962,220 to the Liberals and $10,320 to the NDP.

Macquarie has donated $17,050 to the Liberals.

The $404 million transmission line overshot its budget by more than $300 million, with a final price tag of $716 million. But who counts bills among friends?

There are the nine “potential future mines” that B.C. Hydro hopes will one day connect to the line.

With the downturn in metal prices, B.C. Hydro shouldn’t hold its breath in anticipation.

Excluding donations from Imperial Metals and Teck, who have interests in three of the mines, the most generous companies were Goldcorp at $795,700, the Lundin Group of Companies ($112,145) and Copper Fox Metals ($93,130).

One of the founding directors of Copper Fox Metals is Hector MacKay-Dunn, who co-chaired the B.C. Liberal’s 2009 election preparation efforts.

MacKay-Dunn is affectionately known in some party circles as Hector the Collector for his prowess at political fundraising.
The nine companies behind the potential mines have donated $1 million to the Liberals and $18,050 to the NDP ($10,000 of it from Copper Fox in 2013).

And at the same time the government was imposing hydro rate increases on schools and hospitals in 2014, Bennett announced a $100 million B.C. Hydro initiative for pulp and paper producers to “support investments in more energy efficient equipment.”
The forest industry has donated more than $4.2 million to the Liberals and $294,905 to the NDP.

Tidy haul.

Add it all up: more than $9.8 million in donations from interested parties to the Liberals and $417,185 to the NDP, not including their 2015 donations.

Guess who gets saddled with the bill?

Including operating and capital development agreements that have tripled to $3.3 billion since 2010, B.C. Hydro’s contractual obligations now stand at $59.7 billion, not including their debt which has grown from $6.8 billion in 2004 to $16.7 billion last year.

They’ve had to borrow $3.2 billion just to turn around and give it to the B.C. government as so-called dividends.

Meanwhile, Hydro-Quebec cut a dividend cheque of $2.5 billion for the Quebec government in 2014.

They didn’t have to borrow money to cover the cheque and still had $700 million in profits left over.

In 2014, it’s rates were nearly two cents per kWh lower than B.C. From 2007 to 2015, its cumulative rate increase was 17.1 per cent. In B.C., it was 63.2 per cent.

Total donations from all of Hydro-Quebec’s suppliers and contractors to the Parti Quebecois and the Quebec Liberal party in the last 30-years? Zero.

Quebec bans corporate and union donations. The maximum any Quebec resident can give to a political party is $100 annually.

Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC. www.integritybc.ca

Continue reading

In-Sights: Distortions and half-truths but mostly outright lies

February 13, 2013, Premier Christy Clark announced:

…the new British Columbia Prosperity Fund to ensure communities, First Nations and all British Columbians benefit from the development of a new liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry…

LNG development is poised to trigger approximately $1 trillion in cumulative GDP within British Columbia over the next 30 years and that means more than $100 billion will flow directly to the Prosperity Fund.

Province wide, LNG is expected to create on average 39,000 annual direct, indirect and induced full-time jobs during a nine-year construction period. As well, there could be as many as 75,000 full-time jobs required once all LNG plants are in full operation…

Factsheet

…Projected total revenues to government are estimated between $130 billion and $260 billion over the next 30 years. In order to maximize the benefits of these developments to future generations of British Columbians, the provincial government is establishing a new British Columbia Prosperity Fund…

During the election campaign, Liberals promised that LNG revenues would not only ensure a debt free British Columbia but gas production would also fund essential spending for health care, education and social services. They claimed their plan demonstrated the superiority of BC Liberal financial management because, after almost 40 years, Alberta’s Heritage Fund contained only $17 billion, a fund accumulation 1/10 or 1/20 the rate intended for B.C.

So that we don’t forget this good news, Northern Insight will calculate the accrued income that is coming our way. It updates regularly.

First Pamela, we’d have to move to Norway.

Bringing us some of the news that’s fit to print, and a little more, Dirk Meissner rewrote pre-election Liberal press releases for Postmedia, the company that chose to partner with Canada’s resource industries and their favourite politicians.

B.C.’s LNG plans on same scale as oil sands: Clark, Dirk Meissner, December 13, 2012:

VICTORIA — Premier Christy Clark says her government’s plan to export liquefied natural gas to Asia is British Columbia’s economic equivalent to Alberta’s oilsands.

In a year-end interview with The Canadian Press, Clark said B.C.’s LNG development ambitions will transform the economy, but the province must act quickly before the opportunity evaporates like gas into the atmosphere.

Clark, who has spent the last year describing her “bold” and “audacious” plan to turn B.C. into Canada’s job-creation engine, said British Columbians will still be cashing in on the benefits of LNG exports 50 years from now.

“Think about it in these terms: what oil has been to Alberta since the 1970s-80s is what LNG is going to be for British Columbia, nothing less than that,” said Clark.

“Energy output from LNG will likely be as big as the total energy output today from the oilsands,” she said.

…[experts] are on board in describing the opportunity as monumental and one that should be fast tracked.

“This is huge,” said Ron Loberec, Deloitte’s Canadian resources spokesman. “It’s a no-brainer.

Now, almost three years later, the so-called experts are proven to be no-brainers. They were drawn willingly or stupidly into participating as partisans in the 2013 BC election. Not only has the province not moved forward on LNG, it’s lost billions of revenues that used to flow from its gas fields. BC is not realizing additional revenues from natural gas despite returning billions of dollars to the industry through drilling and infrastructure subsidies. In fact, the province is no longer receiving material payments through royalties or the sale of petroleum and gas rights.

Continue reading