The minority B.C. NDP government has withdrawn a second legislative change in the summer session prompted by COVID-19, after B.C. Green MLAs refused to support changes to electricity imports that would phase out most private hydro development.
Earlier this week the two B.C. Green MLAs also refused to support the NDP’s changes to the Mental Health Act, to allow young people to be detained in hospital for up to a week following a drug overdose. In both cases, objections of Indigenous people were cited by interim B.C. Green leader Adam Olsen and leadership contender Sonia Furstenau.
Energy Minister Bruce Ralston said he was “disappointed” that the B.C. Greens wouldn’t support changing the former B.C. Liberal government’s requirement that B.C. Hydro be self-sufficient in electricity even in low water years. Ralston’s amendments would allow B.C. Hydro to import power designated as “clean” such as solar and wind from California or other jurisdictions.
Disappointed to hear that BC Greens not willing to support Bill 17 that would keep hydro rates affordable for people and promote electrification of BC’s economy. Clean and affordable energy is key to meeting our CleanBC goals (1/3)— Bruce Ralston (@BruceRalston) July 28, 2020
“The B.C. Liberal approach was to support their friends in private power industry and use ‘self-sufficiency’ to justify unnecessary long-term power contracts at inflated prices,” Ralston said after pulling the Clean Energy Amendment Act from the legislature. “We recognize that many First Nations view clean energy as an economic development opportunity, and will continue to provide direct funding support for community energy projects.”
That wasn’t enough for Olsen, Saanich and the Islands MLA and a member of the Tsartlip First Nation.
“My colleague MLA Furstenau and I were clear that we would be willing to pass the provisions relating to Burrard Thermal and the clean energy standard, but felt the section on self-sufficiency required additional consultation with First Nations and impacted parties,” Olsen said July 28.
Withdrawing the bill to keep it from being defeated also puts off Ralston’s plan to let B.C. Hydro redevelop the Burrard Thermal site in Port Moody, which has clean energy and other industrial potential.
The opioid overdose change was pulled by Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy July 27, after Indigenous people joined Representative for Children and Youth Jennifer Charlesworth in objecting to it.
Thousands of people every year are detained under B.C.’s Mental Health Act to protect them, but only if they are diagnosed with a severe psychiatric disorder, with or without drug abuse. The amendment would have allowed doctors to detain young people in hospital for up to 48 hours after a drug overdose, without a formal diagnosis of psychosis or suicidal thoughts. Under “strict conditions” the detention could be extended to a week, Darcy said.
After withdrawing the bill, Darcy said there have been extensive consultations with the First Nations Health Authority and others, and a pilot project at B.C. Children’s Hospital was showing positive results. But the summer legislative session has only one more week in August and the bill was withdrawn to give time for more consultation.
“We’re running out of time,” Darcy told reporters.