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BC NDP plans bill to mitigate Hydro increase

Jeremy Nuttall

By Jeremy Nuttall, 24 hours Vancouver

A BC Hydro smart meter in 2013. (24 HOURS FILE PHOTO)

A BC Hydro smart meter in 2013. (24 HOURS FILE PHOTO)

"People that don’t have a lot of money in their pockets are not being helped by this government." — John Horgan, BC NDP energy critic

BC NDP energy critic John Horgan is aiming to table a bill next week to protect low-income earners from BC Hydro increases set to take effect next month.

In November, outrage erupted when the Crown corporation announced it would implement rate increases amounting to 28% during a five-year period as part of a decade-long plan.

On Thursday, Victoria announced it had ordered Hydro and the B.C. Utilities Commission to go ahead with the 10-year plan for the power authority.

The government insists the increase is needed to pay for vital infrastructure upgrades province-wide.

But Horgan said that’s not the case.

“The reality is these rate increases are required to pay for previous blunders,” he said, in reference to the northwest transmission line and smart meter issues. “It’s going to get worse not better over 10 years.”

Horgan pointed out in the 10-year plan there was a deferred debt account established to deal with a lawsuit the province settled with California for $750 million.

For now, he said, he wants to introduce a “lifeline rate” to protect people with low incomes from the Hydro increase.

“Wages aren’t going up 15%, pensions aren’t going up 15%,” Horgan said. “These rate increases are going to be pretty hard to take for people, particularly if you use electricity to heat your home.”

In the Thursday release, the province said rates would increase by 9% and 6% in 2015 and 2016, respectively, and an increase of an expected 9% will happen in April.

Victoria also announced three new board members have been appointed to the BCUC.

Howard Harowitz, Iain F. MacPhail and Karen Keilty were named to the board.

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