While the punditocracy whipped itself into a justifiable if ritual lather over another Ottawa bailout of Bombardier, the $372-million loan is small change compared with the multi-billion-dollar green electric power fiascos across the country.
A rough tally of the ballooning financial plight of the electricity sectors in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Newfoundland quickly runs to more than $50 billion in new debt and imbedded costs for investments that threaten to be money-losing drags on growth and consumers — and the federal government —for years to come.
The looming disasters have two things in common. They are the work of government-controlled and politically manipulated Crown corporations. They are also the product of a deliberate push to produce clean, green and renewable carbon-free electricity. No fossil fuels allowed. Money is no object.
An $8.8-billion dam known as the Site C Clean Energy Project in northeastern B.C. has been described as a “white elephant” by a former hydro executive. Last month Moody’s warned that “BC Hydro posts some metrics that are among the weakest of Canadian provincial utilities.” The company’s debt is heading to $20 billion. Hydro, said Moody’s, has the “flexibility to increase utility rates to ensure that its own revenues will continue to support its operations and debt payments.”
Approval of Site C came in the context of the B.C. Green Energy Act, which mandates that 93 per cent of the province’s electricity must come from “clean and renewable resources.” There is, alas, no requirement for economic viability. And in a bit of double-think, B.C. Hydro’s environmental impact statement notes there could be huge demand for Site C power if assorted liquid natural gas projects go ahead. The province will therefore mandate carbon-free renewable power to help produce carbon-containing LNG.