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BC Hydro union rallying against smart meters

The union representing meter readers at BC Hydro is campaigning to help nearly 400 people whose jobs will be rendered obsolete because of smart meters.
The Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union Local 378 has tried to ensure a transition plan for workers since the smart meter initiative was introduced. The union, however, claims the province and BC Hydro refuse retraining.
In a Monday presentation to Cumberland council, Local 378 president David Black said COPE is looking for a practical transition to a new line of work for the employees.
The union also suggests those opposed to smart meters need a better opt-out provision.
Last year, BC Hydro awarded Corix the meter installation contract. The first meters were installed in the summer. Costs have so far run about $1 million.
"The long-term costs are even greater," Black said.
Advocacy groups claim wireless meters emit radiation, increase the likelihood of structure fires and — by recording details of power usage — violate privacy rights. B.C. Hydro says the meter initiative is a conservation effort that enables customers to see their usage and adjust electricity consumption accordingly.
According to the union, other jurisdictions have suffered higher electricity rates through time-of-use billing where meters have been installed.
The Union of B.C. Municipalities has passed a resolution calling for a smart meter moratorium due to health and privacy concerns.
Black said the office of the privacy commissioner has identified 14 areas of concern. It questions, for instance, how smart meter information will be used.
The union encourages the public to contact Energy Minister Rich Coleman to object to costs associated with smart meters.
While residents are not allowed to prevent installation, COPE is providing opposition signs to post on a meter or on houses.
Council agreed to send a letter to BC Hydro and the province supporting optional refusal of meter installations, as requested by Maple Ridge council.
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Council will consider a 'Review and Revise' option for the Official Community Plan in upcoming budget discussions. This option, one of three outlined by senior planner Judith Walker, would cost an estimated $34,250 in staff and $75,000 in consultation time for a 12-month term.
The purpose is to align the OCP with the Regional Growth Strategy and to meet provincially-mandated requirements for Greenhouse Gas reductions.
The OCP is a provincially-mandated document that guides local government decision-making. It is typically reviewed every five years.
Walker said much of the Village's OCP, adopted in 2004, meets RGS and sustainability goals but lacks clarity. A public education and engagement process is necessary to review, assess and revise the document. She suggests the process includes a task force working group.
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Coun. Roger Kishi said a letter from Vancouver Island North MP John Duncan, like that of Premier Christy Clark, does not respond to council's main concern about Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) negotiations.
Council had directed the village to request the province to negotiate an exemption for local governments from CETA.
In the letter, Duncan said a pre-negotiation study indicates a well-negotiated agreement could increase bilateral trade by 20 per cent and GDP by $12 billion per year, and create 80,000 jobs.
"These are benefits that the government of Canada cannot ignore in moving the Canadian economy to a stronger, more durable state," Duncan writes.
The Council of Canadians suggests the CETA deal is about deregulation, privatization and increasing corporate investment rights.
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The Village will send thank you letters to Trilogy for donating $500 towards construction of a bridge between Chinatown and the old Japanese town site, and $15,000 towards the Lantern Festival.
reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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