Political and industry insiders are jumping ship to IPPs
By Sam Cooper
Are B.C. Liberals and independent power producers too cozy? Consider these facts and figures.
Since Gordon Campbell took power in 2001, IPPs have given his party at least $850,000.
That figure is sure to shoot to more than $1 million when donation records for the May 2009 election are released, says NDP environment critic Shane Simpson.
The Independent Power Producers Association of B.C. says membership jumped from about 20 companies in 2001 to 320 in 2009.
And as the number of IPPs and lucrative B.C. Hydro "energy-purchase agreement" contracts mounts under Campbell's watch, boardroom and staff lists of B.C.'s biggest IPPs increasingly resemble alumni associations of B.C. Liberal and B.C. Hydro grads.
No company has scooped more Liberal insiders than Plutonic Power Corporation, a B.C. run-of-river upstart now partnered with U.S. giant General Electric.
Here are some of the company's executive B.C. Liberal grads: Tom Syer (former deputy chief of staff to Premier Gordon Campbell), Dave Cyr (former aide to Mike de Jong, then Liberal minister of aboriginal relations), Bill Irwin, (former ministry of tourism staffer) and Robert Poore (former executive assistant to then-revenue minister Rick Thorpe).
Plutonic Power Corporation has donated $99,781 to the B.C. Liberals since 2006, including 2009 donations released to The Province by spokesperson Elisha McCallum.
Individuals from Plutonic have also made donations, with CEO Donald McInnes handing at least $30,000 to the Liberals since 2001.
But hefty donations and legions of former Liberals don't equal government favouritism for Plutonic, McCallum says.
"Our CEO had the vision to find the people with the best skills," McCallum says.
"There is no preferential treatment provided to us. The insinuation that there is some conspiracy theory is ridiculous."
Other insiders who've assumed leadership in the IPP world are: Geoff Plant (former attorney-general, now chair of Renaissance Power); Naikun Wind CEO Paul Taylor (former CEO of ICBC and a deputy finance minister); Stephen Kukucha, president and CEO of Atla Energy (former senior policy adviser for the ministry of environment); Bruce Young (former B.C. Liberal campaign manager, now a director of Atla Energy); Bob Herath (former ministry of the environment staffer now with Syntaris Power); and Alexander Kiess (former project supervisor with B.C. Hydro, now consulting as a project supervisor for Syntaris Power).
In a Province interview, Blair Lekstrom, minister of energy, was asked whether the exodus of Liberal insiders to IPPs might suggest undue influence by the industry.
"I'd take great offence if someone suggested that," he said. "I'm not influenced because of who someone is or where they used to work."
IPPBC head Steve Davis also brushed aside suggestions the government is too cozy with IPPs.
"The protections for the public are huge and already in place," he said.
"Every single [EPA] contract must be reviewed by the B.C. Utilities Commission."
© Copyright (c) The ProvincePosted by Arthur Caldicott on 09 Jun 2009