Right now, you and the rest of the province may be on vacation. But it looks like the folks at one of British Columbia's top energy companies are a little busy. Today, Terasen Inc. announced it had been bought by Houston, Texas-based energy transportation and storage giant Kinder Morgan Inc. for $6.9 billion. But what the release didn't mention was that the sell-off (which must still be approved by Industry Canada and the British Columbia Utilities Commission) was made possible, in part, by the provincial Liberals. Back in November 2003, the Campbell administration introduced and later passed the B.C. Hydro Public Power Legacy and Heritage Act, which removed legal provisions preventing Terasen from being taken over by another firm without cabinet's approval or moving its headquarters out of province.
The provisions, which also capped the number of shares that could be owned by foreign investors at 20 percent, had been put in place by Socred Premier Bill Vander Zalm's government after he sold Crown-owned gas assets to Terasen (then known as Inland Gas Co. and later B.C. Gas Inc.). The reason: in an interview with Public Eye, the former premier explained his administration "wanted to keep the jobs in B.C., we wanted to have it properly controlled, we wanted to make sure we had control over what rates would be charged and we wanted to make sure the office jobs stayed in B.C. and have the (company) paying taxes in B.C."
At the time the public power legacy and heritage act was introduced, Energy and Mines Minister Rich Neufeld told Public Eye Terasen had lobbied government to remove the provisions shortly after Premier Gordon Campbell moved into the West Annex. But, when discussing the bill in the legislature, Minister Neufeld didn't mention the removal could result in a change in ownership. Instead, he said it was meant to "increase Terasen's access to investment dollars."
And, for their part, Terasen says they weren't looking to be purchased. "We were approached on a quite unsolicited basis here a couple months ago," said company public affairs director Cam Avery. Mr. Avery confirmed the sell-off would mean some downsizing and consolidation at Terasen's Vancouver headquarters. But overall employment in British Columbia by the company would likely increase, he added.