Smart meter politicking identical to HST implementation: NDP

"It's ironic – it lines up the way the HST does," Saanich South MLA Lana Popham said. "It's a billion-dollar program and it's all been exempted from the regulatory process. It's a massive change and people don't like the idea that they don't have any say on something that's bothering them."

The province’s New Democrats say the government’s implementation of smart meters, despite concerns from British Columbians, is reminiscent of another recent Liberal idea that failed to garner public support.

“It’s ironic – it lines up the way the HST does,” Saanich South MLA Lana Popham said. “It’s a billion-dollar program and it’s all been exempted from the regulatory process. It’s a massive change and people don’t like the idea that they don’t have any say on something that’s bothering them.”

Ida Chong, Liberal MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, says the irony she sees is in municipalities voting at last week’s Union of B.C. Municipalities conference to support a moratorium on the wireless devices that B.C. Hydro is installing on all B.C. homes.

“In this day and age with wireless, it’s ironic for municipalities to say they don’t want this, but they have public buildings with wireless for people to go to,” Chong said. “It’s somewhat ironic, because wireless (Internet technology), I think, has more (electromagnetic) emissions than the smart meters.”

Popham says NDP energy critic John Horgan has received 3,200 emails of concern about smart meters, ranging from privacy and health worries, as well as the $930-million cost of the project.

“What these people want is consultation, which they haven’t had,” Popham said. “Right from the start, we’ve called for public meetings and consultations so these people can be heard, because 3,200 is not a small amount of people.”

Following last week’s UBCM vote, Premier Christy Clark said she doesn’t share the concerns of people who are worried that smart meters could affect their health. “When we’re surrounded by wireless and cellphones, there are a lot of other sources of the problem that they’re concerned about.”

Clark said B.C. needs an efficient smart grid to save money on electricity delivery and foster economic growth.

The province has repeatedly said it will allow B.C. Hydro to move forward on smart meter installations, despite the concerns and municipalities’ request for a moratorium.

Chong says there are a few “more vocal” opposing individuals drowning out the voices of those who are less vocal, who “actually wish to learn a bit more.”

“If people are genuinely concerned for something like this, if this is a matter people are interested in, (they can) spend time and find out more information,” Chong said. “You’ll always see people who disagree, but this is not about smart meters, this is about a smart grid and having a smarter system provincially.”

So far, Hydro crews have installed 100,000 smart meters across B.C. and will reach 250,000 by later this fall.

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

– with files from Black Press

kslavin@saanichnews.com