Four months ago, the government had a problem: its past policies promoting energy self-sufficiency and independent power projects meant, in part, that British Columbians would soon be paying over 30 percent more for their electricity. That's a sure path to political unpopularity. So the government handpicked three of its top civil servants, who serve at the pleasure of their political masters, to figure out how to cut that rate hike. Their headlining solution: downsize BC Hydro Corp.
Citing information that has readily been available to the media, the opposition and the public in the Crown corporation's annual reports the civil servants advised the premier and her energy minister that the number of BC Hydro employees had increased 41 percent between 2006 and 2010. They then suggested some of them are unnecessary.
As an example, they stated the Crown corporation has 142 communication staff compared to the 187 working for the government. "This appears high," wrote Christy Clark's loyal civil servants. But what they failed to mention is that about 50 of BC Hydro's communications staff are summer students who promote the corporation's power conservation programs at community events and trade shows. Those students are part of a 92 member marketing department that does work which is mostly contracted out by the government.
Which means it would be fairer to say BC Hydro, according to its recent revenue requirements application, has 50 communications staff. That's still a lot. So I'm not saying there isn't some fat to trim at BC Hydro. But the public and the media should be wary of swallowing anything the government presents on a silver plater without chewing it over first - especially when the government has a problem to solve that it wants to avoid taking responsibility for.