An Open Letter to the BC Utilities Corporation

Here's a letter I just sent to the BC Utilities Corporation. Consider echoing your sentiments along the same lines to their complaints department.

Dear Sir/Madam:

My complaint about Natural Gas Marketing in BC is simple enough you may find it easy to write off as some crank. Please do not. It consists of no more than five words.


I remember seeing a flakey survey go by that was worded in such a way as to elicit more yes than no responses and did not do anything to lay out the potential repercussions of deregulating natural gas sales in BC. Salespeople for these marketers have come to my home and those of several of my friends. The offer presented to us would have seen an immediate 12.5% jump in our gas rates, at least. Others have been told "Just sign here. You're not really committing to anything."

Deregulating phone service is not a bad idea since telecommunications bandwidth is practically infinite, totally fungible and easy to do without. Natural Gas, though, while being mostly fungible is neither infinite in supply nor easy to do without. Deregulating its distribution at all exposes the citizens of this province to the speculative vagaries of the marketplace in a way that government for the people ought not to do.

As for the advertising campaign unleashed at the same time, it is abusive in the extreme, implying that if you don't want choice on your natural gas, you must be a boring person who always wears gray socks, always eats turnips and always reads the same books. It looks to this citizen (not just customer!) distinctly like an attempt by yet another multinational corporation (Kinder Morgan) to use governmental agencies (the BCUC) to gain an opportunity to gouge its customers at will (through gas marketing proxies) and deflect the responsibility for the debacle back on the customer ("if only you hadn't signed that piece of paper..."). In all probability, what we are seeing is not such a nefarious conspiracy but it tastes bad. Really bad.

So I return to my five simple words. Get rid of this stupid situation and go back to doing your duty to the citizens of BC:


Expect to get more letters like this in the coming days. I will be sending the above letter to my local newspapers, posting it to my blog and forwarding its contents to a number of my friends. With any luck (my luck, that is), some of them will forward similar sentiments to you. I hope there'll be enough to reverse this silly decision, whose public process I do not remember seeing any timely publicity on.


name and address blinded, Aldergrove, BC


David Remnick's book, Lenin's Tomb

A friend loaned me this book a few weeks ago and I completed it this morning. I can only quote Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in the "Vintage Edition" Afterword: The heart is not yet glad. So much waste, so much betrayal, so much accusation of "you moved too fast!", "you moved too slowly!", "you betrayed our trust!" (in every possible direction). And yet, the book is out of date already because Boris Yeltsin has been out of power some time now -- died just this year -- and in his place the former KGB officer, Vladimir Putin, looks to be establishing himself as the next long-term autocrat. Of course he has some semblance of legitimacy but it is hard, in the face of his relations to politically interested oligarchs (e.g. MIkhail Khodorkovsky), Belarus and Ukraine (with regard to natural gas pipelines) to accord him more than the semblance.

May the heart yet be glad! Still, it's easy to ignore, in the Anglophone west, what a long hard struggle the progress from autocracy to civil, responsible government was. The French might still remember that Bastille Day was followed by the terror, Napoleon, the return of the Bourbons, another Napoleon or two before things settled down, decades after the ouster of the WWII Quisling government, to the (largely) civilized government we see today. But in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the memory has to be a little longer -- okay, so the Americans have fought more recent wars, but their progress was accelerated by their English heritage and the Lessons Learned from the conflict by England helped the others along. These countries all mostly inherit the results of the Magna Carta (1215 or so) and the ensuing developments over the next 500 years until the last time (Queen Anne, 1707) a monarch over-turned an act of the Commons, outright.

These things take time, lots of time. It may not be in our lifetimes but there is still reason to hope that tyranny will come to an end some time in Russia (and the former SSRs). They are not doomed forever to swing from autocrat to autocrat, from corrupt bureaucracy to corrupt bureaucracy. We can hope and pray that it'll be sooner rather than later but we need not despair that it'll likely be never.


Northern Ireland

Today was the biggest day in Ireland's history since I was born. Rob Gifford's analysis made the most sense of past failures and current success that I've heard: Before the agreements were between moderates and the extremists on either side of them were always out-flanking them. Today, the extremists got together. Wonder of wonders, they found that they could understand one another and there was nobody left to out-flank them. May peace come to the 6 counties! Today was a glad day -- may there be many more like it.