Thursday, February 28, 2013

City of Vernon Taxes

When will this ever slow down? reads the heading.

Obviously a rhetorical question, posed by yet another resident in a Letter to the Editor.

Garry Haas is another in a long string of residents opposed to tax hikes.

Salient points of his long letter, printed in Vernon's Morning Star on February 27, 2013, follow:

"Well, here we go again, it seems.  At first it was 1.8 per cent, now it is 3.95 per cent.  Mr. Mayor and council, please make your mind up and listen to the public.  We do not want any tax increase.

"Take a look at all of the vacant buildings and stores and think about all of the jobs lost"  G.Haas

The assessed value of our property decreased by $20,000 but the mayor says my taxes will increase by $53.  That's bad accounting.  Because the value dropped, the taxes should decrease.  So, I will actually have an increase of around $80 to $100.  This is like the old shell game.

...When will this ever end?  When the city is bankrupt and has no more residents?  I ask the mayor to please tell us what the monetary increase for inside and outside union members will be this year, and how much the benefits will cost us extra this year, and the same for non-union members.

My wife will get .01 this year, maybe.  Believe me, if you take the time to look closely at the budget you will see how our money is being misused. 

Business(sic) are closing in this town.  Take a look at all of the vacant buildings and stores and think about all of the jobs lost and the council still believes that things are not that bad.

Well, there are house prices dropping, full-time jobs disappearing and young families and children leaving.
The demographics of Vernon are not what the mayor and council want us to believe.  We are an aging city and it does not show any signs of slowing down."  Garry Haas 

"It's Mayor(s) and Council(s) that need to slow down," offers Kia.

Thanks to Garry Haas for his compelling letter to the Mayor.

Yet one more that'll be labelled "Ignore".

Coldstream's Congestion

Oh, for heaven's sake!
Who thinks of these idiotic, ludicrous ideas?

A roundabout for one hour a day congestion?
Can that even be called congestion?

The District of Coldstream wants to install a roundabout at Kalamalka and Kidston Roads, besotted with the fact that a grant is available from the Infrastructure Planning Grant Program.

The program's detail is:  "Grants up to $10,000 are available to help improve or develop long-term comprehensive plans that include, but are not limited to: capital asset management plans, community energy plans, integrated stormwater management plans, water master plans and liquid waste management plans."
Who thinks a roundabout is "infrastructure", especially in a community of only ~10,000 people!
Nobody I've talked to!

Fortunately Councillor Peter McClean doesn't think so either, saying the roundabouts he sees in Vernon leave something to be desired; this one at 32nd Avenue:,+Vernon,+BC&hl=en&ll=50.265317,-119.262207&spn=0.000856,0.002642&sll=50.270134,-119.259386&sspn=0.000855,0.002642&t=h&hnear=32+Ave,+Vernon,+British+Columbia&z=19&layer=c&cbll=50.265317,-119.262207&panoid=8_HcLumi3e-3j6_DZDKbTw&cbp=12,301.39,,0,16.9

Even Councillors Guyla Kiss and Maria Besso--in decidedly lucid moments--aren't convinced a roundabout is necessary.

Consider what the provincial grant (money from our taxes) could be used for--authentic infrastructure like replacement of aging waterlines and water pumps, or the District's much-touted and needed improvements to stormwater and drainage. 

What a bunch of nonsense...Coldstream congestion.

"Maybe indigestion," suggests Kia, "just more gas from Coldstream."

Edit:  So where did the roundabout idea originate?  Discussion between the Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, Mayor Garlick, and the Chief Administrative Officer at the 2012 Union of B.C. Municipalities Convention.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Ed Hanoski, councillor Par Excellence

It's obvious that Ed Hanoski doesn't live in the District of Coldstream.

And that he hasn't been poisoned by toeing the provincial line from the Agricultural Land Commission, whose unparalleled joy at Coldstream's promotion--indeed attempted forcing--of RU10, RU30 rezoning as it relates to secondary structures was almost audible.

A councillor in the district of Spallumcheen, Mr. Hanoski is unique among elected officials, certainly among those in Coldstream.
He doesn't seek to gain points with senior bureaucrats in Victoria.
He actually represents his constituents.

During his bid for councillor, he actually banged on doors and asked people what they wanted.  And it sounds as though he didn't simply bang on the doors of leftists and NIMBYists. 

Agricultural Land Reserve rules state a secondary suite is only allowed inside an existing dwelling, or by placement of a mobile/manufactured home on the property.

That regulation is, naturally, under the guise of keeping as much arable land available for farming.
But a guise--a ruse--it is.
Because it's all about conformity, all about control.  

Ed's discussions with property owners convinced him of what he already knew...that people want the ability to have aging parents (the previous generation who farmed) to be able to live on the property where they can be cared for by family members, but that each of the two generations would be able to maintain a modicum of privacy and comfort.

To his credit, the rest of Spallumcheen council unanimously supported Mr. Hanoski's view.  Their recommendation will form a resolution to this year's Southern Interior Local Government Association

He's made other good recommendations too.

Good luck with your proposed resolution, Mr. Hanoski.

"Just don't sit beside Maria Besso at the convention," warns Kia.

Coldstream Councillor Maria Besso has never farmed acreage but believes she knows infinitely more than those who currently do, or did farm acreage.

Maria Besso would suggest Spallumcheen farmers open a teahouse...

"Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery."  W.Churchill

My Love of Feisty Seniors

Straight-shooters, all of 'em.
Because they've seen and heard it all before.

Kudos to Vernon's Pat Black, who writes a local seniors' feature entitled Personal Best that covers everything from health to pensions to political issues.

"...I guess I am tired of double talk, flim flam and media events about nothing and the assumption that the public is dumb enough to think things are grand just because politicians tell us they are."  Pat Black

Ms. Black's latest column piqued my interest, because she's got the guts to say it as it is.

She saw through the political strategizing that routinely occurs in pre-election years; in this case that Vernon Jubilee Hospital's two shelled-in floors might actually become functional. 

"Finally more beds," says Pat, following Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid's press conference here.

Her optimism quickly doused, she concludes that the top two floors should hold 60 beds; yet the Minister's announcement was for 14, "with the rest shuffled around from the old wings to make up the 60 beds designated."

"I guess I am tired of double talk, flim flam and media events about nothing and the assumption that the public is dumb enough to think things are grand just because politicians tell us they are."

"In truth ... the total number of beds will be 162 for the whole hospital from a now funded 148, a number grossly inaccurate as the number of patients ranges from a low of 170 to 180 with a not uncommon number of 193 patients."

And we know who will pay, don't we, Ms. Black?

"This supposedly good news is especially irritating as the province expects $7.6 million of the total to come from the community through our Regional Hospital District and the VJH Foundation."

"That is us, folks, either through donations or taxes..."

She concludes:  "I would have felt better if the announcement apologized for the limited number of beds provided..."

"I love Pat Black,admits Kia.

Yup...we have no say, but we always pay.
Thanks, Ms. Black!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Birth of Another Bureaucracy

By now, we taxpayers have become used to government, at all levels, stealing from Peter to pay Paul.
We taxpayers go by many names, mostly intertwined with the word "sucker".

And forming arms-length committees made up of special appointees that control our lives, all under the guise of protecting us.  Because, you know, we taxpayers need to be protected.  Yeah right, but moreso is the hidden agenda to have us all conform to their rules and machinations.

Springing to mind is the Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC) who guide application and content (but won't do anything to prevent Telus' gouging of customers for everything from the highest cellphone costs in the world, to their landline monopoly, "because there are competitors/options").

There's the B.C. Utilities Commission, another arms-length appointed committee which "protects consumers" with its mandate to regulate the province's natural gas and electricity utilities, intra-provincial pipelines and universal compulsory automobile insurance (but who apparently have no appetite to stem Hydro's and ICBC's gouging of customers).

Same thing locally too.
We have the Okanagan Basin Water Board, yet another arms-length appointed committee whose mandate it is to "provide leadership on water issues".  Yeah right.  That leadership now encompasses their awarding of grants from the provincial government to local governments (our tax money), all of which has led to requirements to conform while we lose the ability to make local decisions, by electing (or un-electing) them on water issues.

The Coldstream Acreage Owners' Association need only look back to last year's "rezoning attempt" by the District of Coldstream, under the guise of acting on recommendations from their Agriculture Committee to see the effect of unelected and appointed-by-government committees.

The common thread among all these committees--indeed even who comprises the committees--is that these groups are out of reach of the everyday taxpayer's ability to control--by electing or not electing them--if we don't agree with their positions.

From the outside--the only vantage point a taxpayer has--these steering committees and organizations create another level of bureaucracy.  And they're not magnanimous...they don't work for free, despite claims of being a not-for-profit "society".
Taxpayer dollars are needed for their offices, computers, staff, meeting expenses, etc.
And if not already, soon will be, via grants and other government-operating disbursements.

So it comes as no surprise that the birth of yet another British Columbia bureaucracy was heralded without the normal screams of a newborn infant.
But a birth it was, proven by its accompanying paperwork.

Yup...paperwork announcing who/what must comply.
And who will pay.

At first glance, taxpayers might be tempted to say "and so it should be!"

But think again...we paid before the new rules, and it's us who will continue to pay after the new rules are implemented, so it's one more exercise in semantics.
From yet another appointed arms-length government bureaucracy.

Judge for yourself by the statement:  "British Columbia is transitioning responsibility for end-of-life management of packaging and printed paper (PPP) from governments and their taxpayers to industry and their consumers."

"Their consumers".
Isn't that us?

Eyes glazed over yet?
Stay with me for the rest because, as it turns out, you and I are not paying enough.

We taxpayers already pay fees for recycling/deposit/environmental disposal costs when we purchase everything from paint, to tires, to liquor.

Now retail stores, where you and I shop, must submit a stewardship plan on their recycling stream.  And yup, any added costs to the retailer will have to be passed on to the consumer because (gasp!) retailers are for-profit entities.
But we're already paying for recycling and garbage dump costs.

So will we now have to pay an environmental waste deposit at the retailer for that newspaper and magazine we purchase?
For the over-packaging that makes a 10 centimeter battery sold in a 30 centimeter by 15 centimeter package, replete with bulging blister pack mysteriously conjoined with its cardboard hanging-enabler?
For the hefty cardboard boxes in which bananas are transported bruise-free from Chile?

But we all (indirectly) already pay for those "overhead" retailer costs, you say.
Yes, but it's still not enough!

Think of the old PST system (to which B.C. is returning on April 1st, 2013), where every time, for example, that a used golf ball is sold, and then recovered from the pond and resold, it "attracted" provincial sales tax of 7 per cent.  Let's say that used golf ball was sold for one dollar.  Every time it was "recovered" and resold, the provincial government received seven cents.  Imagine it being sold over and over again after over and over recovery and you'll see cumulative fees.

One thing's for sure, by the end of that golf ball's working life, it has garnered government (and their appointed not-for-profit agencies and commissions) more in taxes than the item was worth.

So, witness the birth of Multi Material B.C., whose 32 page plan explains the process.

They've already written letters to retailers on government letterhead, demanding compliance with B.C. government rules that all producers of PPP (packaging and printed paper) are required to submit a stewardship plan to outline how retailers collect, recycle and recover PPPs. 

Not just paper...
"Paper or plastic carry-out bags provided at checkout;
- Bags filled at the shelves with bulk goods, produce, baked goods, etc.;
- Disposable plates and cups;
- Take-out and home delivery food service packaging such as pizza boxes, cups, bags, folded cartons, wraps, trays etc.;
- Flower box/wrap;
- Food wraps provided by the grocer for meats, fish, cheese, etc.
- Prescription bottles filled and provided by pharmacists;
- Paper envelopes for developed photographs;
- Gift wrapping/tissue paper added by the retailer"...and the list goes on.

And, you guessed it.
Consumers will pay more, and government gets your money:  "...will offer a financial incentive to a local government or First Nation government..." from page 10 of 32 here:  
Interestingly, the MMBC website provides a discussion blog with questions from interested parties here on the right side of the page.

"So far, nobody's asked if the government has gone into business with the Mafia," smiles Kia.

Oh yes, they least in a Toronto newspaper.

And here. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Routine Question

"What do you do all winter?"

Lost track of all the times that's been asked when I run into golfers in town. me crazy, but here's my many-years-long palm tree growing passion exposed. though golfers don't know as they routinely walk into a palm tree on the patio in summer, necessitating hat retrievals.

This hobby resembles an obsession (grin), but aren't all hobbies like that?

Unusual varieties--which I love the most--invariably have to start as seed because North Okanagan nurseries don't stock them, understandably.

These duck-egg sized Wodyetia bifurcata (Foxtail palm) seeds came from Mike Dahme's tree in Florida...
Very beautiful seeds:

And here's the 5-year old Foxtail Palm (still a juvenile):

 Eventually resembling these beauties:

Stunning, huh?  Yup.

Then there's the planted (yes, planted) Trachycarpus fortunei (Windmill Palm), here shown in its heated and insulated winter hut (door is open on mild-ish days).

No small task protecting this brute:

And then there are the two planted Washingtonia filifera (Mexican Fan Palm), first a summer photo, and then a photo of their winter protection, replete with C-9 Christmas lights on a T-3 thermocube for heat.  Three Yucca rostrata are planted between them.

And, as usual, the clubhouse is chock-full of patio palms every winter.

Buckets of water for sporadic watering, as lines are turned off at the source during the off season.
The clubhouse is also where last year's "babies" are spending their first winter:

To list--and show--just a few, there are Chamaerops humilis, Phoenix var. Deglet Noor and P. var. Medjool, Trachycarpus Princeps, Trachycarpus Tesan, Wagnerianus, and Jubaea chilensis (blue), and Brahea nitida.

Geraniums that adorn #1 Teebox to greet visitors are anxiously awaiting spring, too:

Oh...and yes, there are new palm seeds, warming in the basement near the woodstove, ready to germinate:

Seeds this winter:  Copernicia hospita (not much luck with those...ever!), Brahea armata, Nannorrhops arabica (silver form), Nannorrhops ritchiana, Bismarckia nobilis (no luck with these either!), as well as some Cycads.

Some that have already germinated:

N. arabica (silver), N. ritchiana, B. armata, Beaucarnea

Keeps me busy until it's time to welcome golfers again...

Oh yeah...gotta call the programmer for the cash registers now that the failed HST has to be changed into the resurrection of the former PST (and separation of the GST).  

Good ole' government...can always count on them to screw up my winter and add costs for business.

And Kia hated winter...apart from missing her golfer friends.

"Hate it when I can't see my feet," mutters Kia.

Paws, Kia.  Those are paws.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Savvy Taxpayers

They're watching Coldstream and Vernon more than ever.

And not liking what they see.

Yet another Letter to Editor, Vernon Morning Star, February 13, 2013, condensed for brevity:

"The electorate of Vernon have three mutually contradictory objectives:  low, zero or, (gasp!), even negative, changes to tax rates, no increases in user fees, and no reductions in services.

"Why is it always easier to find reasons to spend
than to not spend?"

These three goals cannot be attained simultaneously unless the overall size of the economy of Vernon grows, so that we have a larger tax base to fund the same level of services with no tax or user fee increases...
During the last civic election campaign a number of residents expressed concern about the parlous(sic...perilous) state of the local economy.

I recently attended the 'public workshop' in support of the...Core Services Review.  Most of the potential cost-savings opportunities presented, some of them in the millions of dollars per year, were summarily rejected by the public present.

Why is it always easier to find reasons to spend than to not spend?  Why is it always easier to hire more staff than to reduce staff, this at a time when the amount and proportion of the city budget dedicated to staff wages continues to grow faster than either the tax base or the population?  How can this possibly be sustainable?

Have we not learned from the Canadian experience in the 1990s, and the U.S. and European experiences right now that, while paying the piper can be postponed at a cost, sooner or later he insists on being paid? obvious first step is for our political leaders to declare their vision and commitment to the world (business, investment, entrepreneurs, other governments...) -- that Vernon's exclusive focus is the economy, and that all other considerations, bar none, are of far less importance.

Ah, but I hear you muttering under your breath, what about my favourite crusade (insert personal agenda here)?  Well, if Vernon cannot afford to pay for your favoured program, it will have to be cut in the future if not today, so why don't we stop bickering over who gets a slice of a shrinking pie and instead try to make the pie larger?  

...If we continue on our current trajectory, our city will continue to slide into irrelevance, our taxes will increase, our services will diminish, and our city bureaucracy will increase until it consumes our entire budget.  We need to wake up from our Okanagan dreamland and face reality."     Wynn Polnicky.

"Preferably before we become another ghost town," offers Kia.

Ah...the North Okanagan experience.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Dismissing KPMG's Recommendation

Why pay for an independent "efficiencies" study and then summarily dismiss its recommendations?
Common sense recommendations.

Even when there are successful 10-year old examples such as Ottawa amalgamating with 10 surrounding communities.

That's just what Vernon has done, with Mayor Sawatzky's cursory dismissal of its findings.
Again and again.  

Seems all elected officials, including former Muni Minister Ida Chong, dismiss amalgamation.

And all along, Mayor Garlick of adjacent Coldstream walks the same walk as Sawatzky when considering the North Okanagan's governance.

But only the elected officials as this Letter to the Editor indicates.

February 17, 2013 The Morning Star
by Brandon Lee

"Wow.  So let me understand this.  Our current mayor is elected because one of his platforms was to see where they could reduce cost and create efficiencies.  Now the company, KPMG, hired to do the work, suggests amalgamation may save costs but the mayor refuses to consider it because it might stir up controversy and they would have to repair the level of dysfunction?

And all along, I thought we elected officials to make the tough decisions.

It really doesn't take rocket science to figure out that there are huge tax dollars being spent because our local politicians don't want to stir up controversy.

Within a five-minute drive is the municipality of Coldstream which has its own council and staff -- all paid for by tax dollars of course.  And yet, Coldstream really is a bedroom community of Vernon because there really isn't a business core in Coldstream at all and most people who live in Coldstream go to work elsewhere.  

Around the corner, we have RDNO which has a huge building of its own -- again paid by tax dollars.  You really have to wonder exactly what it is that RDNO does as I'm sure there's a good sum that's necessary to maintain that operation.

So at the end of the day, none of the politicians within the Greater Vernon area really want to consider amalgamation because obviously some politicians won't have their apple box to stand on and that just wouldn't be acceptable now, would it?

Never mind the possible tax dollars that could be saved considering this.

How about this novel idea instead?  Put it up as an election issue and see how the Greater Vernon population feel about it and let the taxpayers decide.
Brandon Lee."

"But make it binding," stipulates Kia, remembering the referendum on DoC's municipal hall...which was built anyway.
Novel idea indeed.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Coldstream's Confessional

Transparency in government is a sham.
Especially in B.C.
Especially in local governments like the District of Coldstream.

But the District of Coldstream has now gone to confession, and will be absolved of its sins.
Its sins against Mother Earth.

A short news "story"--and that term is used very loosely--in Vernon's Morning Star on February 13th was entitled "Coldstream hits carbon target."

They're hitting something, but it's not climate action.
Apparently thrilled "that we have reached this point," a gushing Mayor Jim Garlick, added "(we) will continue to seek new initiatives for the betterment of our community."

In talking to residents, one thing's abundantly clear.
Residents don't care.
All that's clear is that our Mayor has rung the bullshit meter again.

Because residents can't afford solar panels on their roofs.
They're too tapped out by unreasonable property taxes, burgeoning fees and ridiculously-inflated water charges, with huge increases still to come.

Reducing greenhouse gases.  Carbon footprint.
It's not local government's commitment to resurrecting the quasi-failed Kyoto Accord.
It's simply to assuage guilt...our sins against Mother Earth.
Right here in Coldstream.

To not feel so guilty.

Local governments are simply spending our money to kiss up to senior bureaucrats in Victoria, whose plan this is.  Under the guise of thinking globally, acting locally, the province of B.C. is ensuring it becomes another California...broke and flailing in the wind, desperate for cash.
Right along with its municipalities and cities.

Complying with Victoria's rules is the only way municipalities can access additional funding for projects (also spearheaded by senior bureaucrats) that are over and above residents' abilities to pay...but Victoria's money comes from us too.

It appears that Maurice Strong has finally gotten his way.
An advocate of the collapse of sinful Western economies, he continues to live in China.
Good place for that treasonous traitor.

Back to Coldstream's solar panels.
We'd all love to have them, but affordability is the issue.
So we're supposed to feel good every time we drive (*grin*) past our municipal hall complex because they have them.  And we paid for them.

Of 188 municipalities/towns in B.C., 180 have signed the Climate Action Charter, and Coldstream is one that signed onto the plan devised back in 2008.

Carbon offsetting is a myth, and its cons seldom see the light of day.
Because you simply end up purchasing new manufactured stuff to replace old manufactured stuff.
But Coldstream has bought it, hook line and sinker.

Some of the "initiatives" it undertook--because like everyone else, Coldstream was unable to completely reduce its carbon footprint--were to purchase a hybrid vehicle (yes, that had to be produced in a steel manufacturing facility), green infrastructure "action" plans (whatever the hell that is!), and so on...

So where is there transparency?
How much did Coldstream pay...and to whom...for carbon offsets?
Did Coldstream's bureaucrats show our elected officials the pros and cons of carbon trading/purchasing carbon offsets?

Did bureaucrats suggest to our elected officials that--instead of physically attending myriad meetings--a tangible (and common sense) carbon-reduction benefit would be to participate via video conferencing?  Just how much networking is physically lost if three elected officials don't attend the annual UBCM (Union of B.C. Municipalities) meetings in Victoria?  None at all.

But they still fly--or drive--to meetings.
Lots of meetings.
All that hobnobbing and airplane-flying and hotel-staying and restaurant-eating is a worthy sin for our elected officials.

The news article closes with "Council adopted a tax revitalization program to support sustainability."
Yup, we know taxes are being revitalized.
And who--or what--is being sustained?

Taxes certainly have a new life, a new vigor.
To the detriment of everything else that could have.

"Carbon offsets is the new derivative," says Kia disapprovingly.
 ...and just as distasteful. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Snowpack on the Aberdeen Plateau and the $100 million Water Plan

"Water levels look good," advises Vernon's Morning Star on February 10, 2013, placating residents with the comment that Greater Vernon will have sufficient water supply this year.

The proviso is, of course, "actual water availability...will depend on what happens with the weather this spring and summer," officials say.

The newspaper article goes on to say "...the Aberdeen plateau is 102 to 129 per cent of normal."
But the agency that reads snow levels was more conservative.
January 24th readings--by Greater Vernon Water, who reads snow levels--stated the measurements were 100 per cent of normal.

That's not all it depends on.
It depends on local government.
And their $100 million ... yes, one hundred million dollar ... Water Plan.

Coldstream's Mayor Garlick was against releasing details to the public at this point, because all information needs to be "pulled together".

Pulled together?

So a water plan has been devised, yet not all the data is complete?
But it was judged complete enough to be presented to the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee, the committee that sets water rates?
Apparently so.

Kudos to directors Bob Spiers (from the City of Vernon) and Gyula Kiss of Coldstream for wanting it released to the public now.
They were overruled.

So residents will wait for the smooth and glossy version of the $100 million plan.

One thing's certain even at this point.
They've chosen to ignore the prime tenet of Greater Vernon Water's mandate:   " ensure the economical supply and distribution of a sufficient quantity and quality of water in the interests of both agricultural and non-agricultural users in the Greater Vernon Community."

Economical supply.
Beginning to sound like an oxymoron.

With 129 -- or 100 -- per cent water available on the Aberdeen Plateau, that refers to supply.
But government proposing a $100 million plan flies in the face of any economy for users...especially when there are only ~40,000 of them.

Sounds as though residents won't be able to afford that 129 -- or 100 -- percent of supply.

They're doing other stuff too, apparently.
The "adopted minutes" of council meetings NEVER give the reasons behind decisions or proposals ... that seems to be reserved for In Camera sessions.
So much for transparency.

As with Coldstream Councillor Kiss' latest:  a transfer of water licenses from upstream water sources to lakes.

His resolution:  "Some communities in the Okanagan Valley may benefit from the transfer of water licenses from upstream creeks to receiving lakes.  This transfer would have no negative effect (amended:  "will have a positive environmental impact") on either the creek or the destination lake.  In fact, there could be significant benefits in the form of improved fish flows in the creeks.  Community water supplies could also benefit from such transfer by being able to separate water supplies that currently supply both domestic and irrigation water through the same distribution system."

The rest of the resolution goes like this:  "...and whereas such transfer will have no influence on the water budget of the receiving water body, therefore be it resolved that the Provincial Government be requested to introduce enabling legislation for the transfer of water licenses from upstream creeks to receiving lakes."

The first thing that springs to mind is that water licenses are a public asset registered with the Province of British Columbia, and governed under the newly-"updated" Water Act.
And public means us...residents, the taxpayers.
But we don't count until it comes time to write a cheque.
So we're not told why "some communities in the Okanagan Valley may benefit."

On the big picture side of things, the World Wildlife Fund has a proposal to the B.C. government that itemizes what other countries are doing to keep the water resource sustainable.

Within our government, there's a Water Stewardship Division, that states it will "manage British Columbia's greatest asset over the next several years."
Several years?
That sounds awfully short-sighted, given former Vernon Irrigation District manager Brian Harvey's, long-term plans for the community, where additional upstream licenses were said to be available as the community grew.

Quite the opposite now.

British Columbia's water licensing Rights and Obligations are here.

You and I will have to be a fly on the wall of the Southern Interior Local Government Association's May 1st, 2013, meeting in Salmon Arm, where the resolution will be presented.

Imagine something as important as a water license change not being made available to the public
So far it's only been approved by bureaucrats and people dependent on the next election.

No list of current proposed--or past adopted--resolutions are included on SILGA's website.

Nothing on the District of Coldstream website.

"A $100 million water system when we've just spent $30 million on it," sighs Kia, "how deep do they think our wallets are?"

Amen to that.

Friday, February 8, 2013

"American Greed" and the Enron Story

Last night's CNBC show, "American Greed", detailed the unravelling of Enron

Enron's obvious (but to me, puzzling) hatred for anything California got me thinking back to when California owed B.C. Hydro money for electricity. 

I didn't know anything about Enron back in 1985.  Apart from its very public collapse in 2001, I was frankly amazed at the sheer depth of fraud and corruption--orchestrated by its principals--brought to light since then. Fortunately, my family didn't own Enron stock.  But you can bet YOUR bank did!

Take the quiz and see what you knew.
Very little, I bet, just like me.
Proof of duplicity in lurid and fraudulent corporate machinations even led to the dissolution of the previously highly-respected accounting firm of Arthur Andersen.

Wikipedia sums it all up, if not nicely.

The TV show reminded me that I had been interested in whether California had ever repaid B.C. Hydro, especially since B.C. residents were facing a 7.23 increase in rates, the first of many.

At the time, it was reported in the media that up to $400 million was owed.
So I questioned B.C. Hydro.

The following is the reply I received from B.C. Hydro rep Elisha Moreno, dated March 18th, 2004:

"Thanks for writing to us about where this proceeding is at - Powerex is still owed approximately US$280 million by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) and the California Power Exchange (CalPX). However, at the same time, FERC has ordered an across-the-board recalculation of California market prices for the period of October 2, 2000 to June 19, 2001. This recalculation will result in refunds to California by some market participants, including Powerex. Any refunds ordered are not in relation to any alleged market manipulation, but in recognition of the fact that the California market was "broken", resulting in extremely high power costs for California during the state's energy crisis.

The exact amount of refunds Powerex will be ordered to pay is currently unknown. At FERC's direction, the CAISO is now recalculating prices, which in turn will determine the amounts owed to and by each market participant based on a certain pricing methodology. These amounts are expected to be issued by the CAISO in the next 6 months, with refunds being offset against outstanding receivables.

Regardless of the amount Powerex has to refund, there will be no negative impact on BC Hydro's bottom line. We have already accounted for the vast majority of the money that's owed us, so any money we get back is a positive for our bottom line. It is also important to remember that we generated significant revenues from energy sales during the energy crisis, therefore this outstanding amount is unrelated to the coming rate increase.

I'd like to remind you that we have not had a rate increase in more than 10 years, since 1993. The reason we are seeking a rate increase is two fold, the need for energy is growing and new sources of electricity will cost more than our existing Hydro resources, and our infrastructure to make sure that energy is reliably delivered to you, is aging and in need of upgrades or replacement. As BC Hydro has absorbed all the costs incurred since 1993, in order to assure secure reliable power into the future we do need the rate increase.

An interim increase has been granted us by the Utilities Commission for April 1, 2004. However this is not the firm rate increase, as there will be a public hearing starting May 17 by the BC Utilities Commission for the public to come and voice their concerns and I would encourage you to do so.

They will make a final decision in the fall this year as to what the increase should be and if it is less than the interim rate customers will be refunded with interest on their bills.

I hope this answers your question somewhat, thank you again for writing."    Elisha Moreno

"Seems rear vision is clear vision, 20/20," offers Kia.
 Wonder what we'll discover in another nine years...  

One thing I'm certain of:  W.A.C. Bennett would be turning over in his grave if he knew.

FEB. 22/13 UPDATE:  Lawsuit:  California vs. B.C. Hydro 

AUG.17/13 UPDATE:  Powerex "settles" for $750 million payment to California

"Proof that U.S. lawyers are better than Canadian lawyers," sniffs Kia.