Province must address smart meter backlash, municipal politicians say

"I do hope the province does step in and listens to municipalities because we, the elected politicians, only represent the concerns that our residents come up with, and this is a huge, huge one."

B.C. Hydro says smart meters are coming, despite a resolution supporting a moratorium on the wireless devices passing at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention on Friday.

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard called the resolution “symbolic” since municipalities have been told, while discussion will continue, so will installations.

“There is no opt-out,” said Gary Murphy, chief project officer for the smart meter program with B.C. Hydro. “Every customer will get a smart meter.”

Saanich’s environmental advisory committee received a presentation last week from residents concerned about potential health risks associated with the radiation emitted from the wireless meters.

Chair Vicki Sanders said the 55-per-cent vote in favour of a moratorium is “awesome, because there’s been such a groundswell of concern.

“I do hope the province does step in and listens to municipalities because we, the elected politicians, only represent the concerns that our residents come up with, and this is a huge, huge one.”

Though Sanders said the committee isn’t taking a stand one way or another on smart meters, a request to support a moratorium will come before council.

“We just don’t know (if there are risks associated to smart meters). That’s what the moratorium would produce,” she said.

Sharon Noble, director of the Coalition to Stop Smart Meters, was “thrilled” to learn about the UBCM resolution.

“This sends a strong message to the government. This is the message from the people, and if they choose to ignore what the people have said through their councillors, through their mayors, then I think the government is making a big mistake,” she said.

Noble objected to the province’s repeated statement this week that echoes B.C. Hydro’s stance that installations will continue.

There are plans in place to take the government to court over human rights complaints if it doesn’t listen to the public outcry, she said.

“People are sick and tired of having this shoved down their throats and want to have a chance to change it,” she said.

Saanich mayoral candidate David Cubberley, a former NDP MLA for Saanich South, said he supports the moratorium because the government hasn’t yet explained a clear rationale for switching to smart meters.

“I’m not saying no smart meters, but a billion-dollar expenditure without a rationale is not a good initiative going into a recession. It’s not a good time to do something like that. What is the impetus?”

Though B.C. Hydro recently told the *News the number of complaints received regarding smart meters is around 100, a spokesperson with the Ministry of Energy and Mines says that number is higher.

“B.C. Hydro has received correspondence of concern from about 2,000 (customers),” the ministry spokesperson said.

Customers with concerns over smart meters can contact B.C. Hydro by emailing SmartMeters@bchydro.com.

– with files from Black Press.

kslavin@saanichnews.com