BC Government Raids Crown Corp Coffers Despite Rising Rates at BC Hydro and ICBC

February 21, 2012

Despite rising costs for B.C. ratepayers, the provincial government is continuing its practice of taking dividends from both BC Hydro and ICBC, says the union representing workers at the two Crown Corporations. The Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union, local 378 (MoveUP) says that dividends should either be used to pay down deferral account debt, in the case of BC Hydro, or be returned to B.C. drivers as a rebate, in the case of ICBC.

Instead, both Crown Corporations are funneling money from British Columbians into provincial government general revenue.

“This government is siphoning over $1 billion from ICBC alone,” said MoveUP President David Black. “When Manitoba’s public insurer was found to have overcharged its customers, it offered a 45 per cent rate rebate. In B.C., the government says thank you very much and pockets the money. And the employees who’ve made ICBC such as success have been told not to expect a wage increase – not even to keep up with the cost of living.”

The government’s 2012 budget and fiscal plan states that they will have taken $1.174 billion from ICBC between 2010 and 2014. This staggering number doesn’t include the subsidy ICBC gives government by providing driver licensing, vehicle licensing and registration for free – services ICBC’s own estimates say would otherwise cost $110 million each year.

BC Hydro also pays a dividend to government, despite being burdened by deferral accounts which B.C.’s Auditor General has pegged at a $2.2 billion liability. According to the 2012 Budget and Fiscal Plan BC Hydro will pay 12.75 per cent of its deemed equity to government. Only a few weeks ago the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) increased the interim deferral account rate rider in order to pay down the utility’s deferred payments.

“The government has made a lot of noise about doing everything they can to decrease BC Hydro rates,” said MoveUP Vice President Gwenne Farrell. “They’ve attacked the workforce and tried to shuffle costs. Well, they’ve done everything except pay down the deferral accounts with the money they feel they are entitled to take from BC Hydro.”

BC Hydro’s deferral accounts cover a variety of costs including the above market rate power from Independent Power Providers and the controversial Smart Meter Initiative. Deferral accounts are typically used by utilities to manage and smooth peaks and valleys in rates. But under the BC Liberals, BC Hydro’s deferral accounts have multiplied from 2 to 27 – far beyond normal utility accounting practices. The deferral accounts have become a source of alarm for both the Auditor General and the BCUC.

“All this is typical of this government,” said Black. “They’re mismanaging two of BC’s most vitally important Crown Corporations to cover for their own financial ineptitude. Because of this mismanagement employees at Crown Corps are being asked to lose ground in terms of wages and the average person will pay more on their Hydro bill and for ICBC premiums. Welcome to Premier Clark’s Families First agenda.”


Media Contact: Sage Aaron  saaron@moveuptogether.ca