City leads charge against rate hikes at UBCM

Penticton representatives will be prompting their provincial counterparts to consider potential electricity rate increases at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention set for this week in Vancouver.

  • Sep. 27, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Penticton representatives will be prompting their provincial counterparts to consider potential electricity rate increases at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention set for this week in Vancouver.

Mayors and councillors representing all the villages, towns and cities across B.C. will muster this week to grapple with municipal issues that require the attention of senior levels of government.

The topics are as varied as the towns represented: on the agenda for debate are resolutions pertaining to medical marijuana, taxation, the environment and legislative items. Many issues cross municipal boundaries, much like wildlife management plans that propose a deer cull to deal with over population.

Penticton put forward one resolution to be addressed at UBCM, and it pertained to a proposed 11-per-cent rate increase by Fortis, in line with B.C. Hydro’s request.

Mayor Dan Ashton said the premier had already stepped in on the issue to quash any such energy hikes, but said the city feels as though the issue isn’t about to disappear.

“It’s pretty tough out there right now for everybody, and I think she (Premier Christy Clark) has realized that and taken a lot of that back,” Ashton said Monday. “That doesn’t mean that both organizations won’t be faced with higher additional costs in the future, which they’ll be passing along.

“It’s always a bit difficult to be see rates that exceed the rate of inflation on a continual basis, and that’s one of the issues.”

He said B.C Hydro and Fortis have been tasked with supplying power to homes ever thirsty for energy.

“Our mom and dads had a fridge and a toaster and a stove and a radio, stereo and TV. They didn’t have everything else that goes with it,” Ashton said.

“The internal demands in our homes has gone up dramatically, and this is what causes some of the upgrades that are required of the lines and the new dams.”

The UBCM resolution committee recommended the convention endorse the resolution, noting the membership objected to B.C. Hydro’s proposed increases of seven per cent in 2004 and nine per cent in 2005.

Area concerns also line up with those further afield. RDOS joined five other regional districts from Nanaimo, Sunshine Coast, Kitimat-Stikine, Cariboo and Comox Valley to call on the provincial government to review the taxation formula of B.C. Hydro and other Crown corporations to implement a fair and equitable method of compensation for local governments.

“The way things are, with some of the things the government has been getting out of, some of the regional districts and municipalities have had to increase their activities in because the government has got away from that, there seems to be a bigger share that municipalities are being asked to step up to the plate with,” Ashton said.

“Our ability to offset that demand in taxation is difficult. We’re asking for a fairer tax to be paid by Crown corporations on Crown land.”

The UBCM continues all week at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre.