Smart-meter message cleared by Coleman's office: Hogg
Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg is standing by his words – and information provided by his office – in a continuing controversy over whether smart meter hold-outs will be forced, ultimately, to accept the devices by BC Hydro.
And the BC Liberal MLA cites energy minister Rich Coleman's own words in the legislature, recorded in 2011, as backing his assertion there would be an opt-out alternative to the program.
"There is an opt-out program," Coleman told the house at that time, moments later correcting himself and saying the option would be correctly termed "a mitigation program for people who have legitimate concerns."
But Coleman had a different version at a media scrum in Vancouver Thursday. The deputy premier said the latest flurry of speculation about installation of the meters – which opponents claim compromise the health and safety of residents – is a result of misinterpretation of an opinion piece he wrote and distributed Jan. 23.
"It says very clearly we're going back to talk to our customers," he said. "We'll not force any customer to take a meter."
Asked about Hogg's belief that a permanent opt-out would be available, Coleman said "he actually contacted me and apologized."
"His office put something out, misinterpreted something to do with the op-ed that I'd sent to all members of caucus," he added. "He's already apologized for that."
But Hogg told Peace Arch News Friday that his only apology to his BC Liberal colleague concerned an anti-smart meter group which had taken information provided to an individual constituent and published it as a personal statement from the MLA.
"I apologized that they had put my name on it – I said I felt bad that happened," Hogg said, noting mixed messages and confusion surrounding the issue have left residents unsure whether they have a right to reject smart meters on their property.
The Surrey-White Rock MLA stood by the content of the information provided to the constituent by his office, which stated "…individual homeowners who had not yet had a smart meter installed on their home, would not have to have one. BC Hydro may be contacting those 'hold-outs' one last time, and if you say no and do not consent – that is the end of it. You will not be forced into having one or be in fear of it being installed when you are not home."
The message was run by Coleman’s office by a constituency assistant, Hogg said, and is believed to have been vetted by BC Hydro. No negative reaction had been received, he said, and the assistant had received permission to release the information.
The information went viral online when it was shared with smart-meter opponents Citizens for Safe Technology, who proceeded to publish it as a personal statement from Hogg – an impression corrected in subsequent bulletins.
Hogg also stood by his earlier statement to Peace Arch News that comments made suggest a permanent opt-out would be available for the smart-meter program, but he noted the decision would ultimately be up to BC Hydro and the ministry.
According to Hansard, the official record of legislature proceedings, Coleman was asked by NDP energy critic John Horgan on May 31, 2011 if BC Hydro would "respect the rights of individuals who do not want smart meters installed on their homes and cancel the program for those who have a demonstrated health concern."
"First of all, there is an opt-out program," Coleman responded. "People will have the opportunity. We will work with them. People who have legitimate concerns, as we're doing the program now, will be taken to the bottom of the list and not be installed immediately. We will take some time to educate. They will have the opportunity to have the meter somewhere else on the property, like in the garage, or whatever, rather than in the living area of the house."
When asked by Horgan how he and BC Hydro would determine what was legitimate, and what process would be in place to review customers' concerns, Coleman corrected his description of the program.
"It's not called an opt-out program, so I've been advised that wasn't correct," he said.
"Basically it's a mitigation program for people that have legitimate concerns."