Hydro freeze for real?

Opposition members in the B.C. legislature are crying foul over the government's contention that BC Hydro rates are being frozen.

During a lengthy and heated debate, Wednesday, Green Party leader Andrew Weaver joined Liberal members in hammering the NDP government, saying it misled the public into believing rates have been frozen when, in fact, they must still be approved by the B.C. Utilities Commission.

Weaver read an entire government news release, which stated in part: 

"The British Columbia government is delivering on its promise to freeze B.C. Hydro rates, putting an end to years of spiralling electricity costs that have made life less affordable for B.C. homeowners and renters, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources announced today."

Last year, BC Hydro was given approval by the BCUC for three years of rate increases. That included a three per cent hike in 2018.

Energy Minister Michelle Mungall told the legislature after working "collaboratively" with BC Hydro, the utility will apply to the BCUC for a zero per cent increase in 2018 instead of the three per cent hike.

"There is going to be an application for a rate freeze before the BC Utilities Commission," Mungall said.

Under repeated questioning by the opposition, Mungall stated on numerous occasions she felt the statement was clear, pointing to a single line stating:

"The minister says that in 2016, B.C. Hydro applied to the B.C. Utilities Commission for three years of increases, with a 3 percent increase planned next year, but will be pulling back its request, consistent with this administration's commitment to a rate freeze."

Liberal MLA Tracy Redies asked what the government would tell British Columbians if the BCUC rules against the zero increase.

"That's a fair question, absolutely, and we'll cross that bridge when we come to it," answered Mundell.

A decision by the BCUC will come early in 2018.

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