Thursday, August 25, 2011


Today private rail, tomorrow private water


By Elizabeth James
Special to North Shore News
August 24, 2011


An April, 1987 analysis by current BC Hydro director David Emerson opened with: "The purpose of this report is to review B.C. Hydro's structure and operation in order to identify in a preliminary way the scope and potential for privatization.

End of quote.

{Snip} ... 

New-era Republicans in Wisconsin, Campbell-Clark Liberals in British Columbia: less than six degrees of separation.

While you and I are engrossed with the BC Hydro panel review, Smart Meters, corporate overload, bonuses and pink slips, Liberal-friendly "rent-seekers" are holding course to abscond with the entire public asset. Will they get away with it?

Absolutely, if we don't stop them -- just as they did with BC Rail and BC Ferries.

In their story about illegal voting in Wisconsin's state legislature, Guardian journalists Michael Hudson and Jeffrey Sommers were referring to economic rent, a term that has as many definitions as there are economists using it.

The Harper Collins dictionary explains it as "a payment to a factor of production (land, labour or capital) in excess of what is needed to keep the factor in its present use."

Closer to home, Gabriola Island economist Erik Andersen said: "In the critical way I use the term for B.C., economic rent is income collected by a contrived monopoly -- (through a) P3 contract -- over and above the income required to accumulate resources enough to provide a service."

In the context of BC Hydro, rent-seekers are those who cannot wait to generate private profit from what traditionally has been a not-for-profit public asset.

The only way that can be achieved is for private corporations to control the rate structure in the same way that BC Ferries controls fares, with or without the tacit permission of whatever governments and/or appointed boards are in power.

As described by Hudson and Sommers for Wisconsin, the sole objective of our own crop of rent-seekers is to privatize what remains of the public assets in British Columbia. Colloquially speaking, for those private corporations, the BC Liberal government has been to die for. Forestry tenures, wild salmon runs, highways, transportation lines, BC Rail -- all they needed to do was ask. Now it is BC Hydro nearing the auction block, assuming the bidders are not already chosen.

For some, this day has been a long time coming. In fact, it was an April, 1987 analysis by current BC Hydro director David Emerson that opened with: "The purpose of this report is to review B.C. Hydro's structure and operation in order to identify in a preliminary way the scope and potential for privatization."

Emerson's executive summary continues: "Two parts of BC Hydro stand out as candidates for an early privatization initiative -- the mainland gas division and the rail division."

In 2006, the Campbell government passed legislation that shielded board members from assertions of conflict. Now we have one board member connected to the company marketing Smart Meters and another with a quarter-century history of believing that some "business units within the operations of BC Hydro may be candidates for privatization."

The sole focus of rent-seekers is to control public assets that can return profits ranging from 10 to 20 per cent -- even if that means disintegration of that asset.

The recent panel review shows that, directly and indirectly, BC Hydro ratepayers underwrite the costs incurred by independent power producers to begin their provincially licensed operations in the waters of our public rivers.

How much more are you prepared to hand off to provide rent-seekers with their profits?

Would you go so far as to relinquish public control over still more of British Columbia's pristine water supply?

Because after noting that "the potential for sale/export of this natural resource is very real," page six of Emerson's report concludes by tolling this bell: "An examination of the privatization possibilities within BC Hydro should give consideration to future opportunities in the Province of British Columbia with regard to the sale/export of water and the role BC Hydro may play in that.

"The ownership of water and the rights or licences to export it are issues which are not that far on the horizon."

Read more HERE:


The emergence of such revenue-mechanisms as "economic rent" points very clearly to an exhaustion of ordinary means of production, i.e. normal resource extraction, normal manufacturing. Where money streams did not hitherto exist, they are being created so as to create investment engines for those already welathy; not for those who cannot "invest" (bribe politicians, whether by campaign donations or more suspect ways) points to a real death of conventional capitalism; where new means of exploiting the population to "harvest capital" to keep the rich getting richer at everyone else's expense. North American capital no longer invests in real economies; but only in legislatively-created ones such as P3s and IPPs it only me who finds it ironic that the same political faction that bemoans government and wants to dismantle is also the ones who seek to control it so as to use its powers to create new ways for them to "make" more money? That those most hostile to government are also those most ready to abuse it?
Thanks for this article.....

I wish more people were aware of what we are losing due to IPP's and P3's.
Hi Mary.

I came across this from Bernhard of, he was raising a discussion about hurricane Irene causing power outages.

It seems quite succinct and relevant.

" Do not privatize natural monopolies. To lay an electric energy line to a house usually only pays off in the frame of several decades. That payoff time frame is too long to make a second line and thereby competition profitable. Privatized networks means that everyone gets stuck with a private monopoly provider which has no incentive to adopt its prices to its real costs. This is a state where things are better (cheaper for consumers) when in non-profit public than private hands. Natural monopolies like electricity-, water-, sewage- and telecommunication networks should be kept in public ownership and maintained with more weight towards reliability than profits. "
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