A few of my least favourite things

Musings on a number of interesting issues that have piqued me - or poked at me - since the New Year arrived.

Musings on a number of interesting issues that have piqued me – or poked at me – since the New Year arrived.

I think the one that is bugging me most during this cold winter weather is my reaction to my recent Pacific Northern Gas bill, covering from November 22 to January 21.

I know I’m treading on Malcolm Baxter’s sacred grazing territory, but this last one made me fume – mostly because I don’t normally look closely enough at the content of bills, I just tend to believe them and pay them.

This time I looked at it (yes, I have looked before) … but WOW! To say the least, it’s confusing mish-mash.

My bill is a nearly unfathomable 19-line checklist of various commodity and delivery charges, some badly-described credits and the inevitable taxes.

It starts with a basic charge, followed by two tiers of separate delivery charges, at differing cost per gigajoule of gas, followed by what is referred to as a “company use delivery rider.”

The next two lines are two additional RSAM delivery riders, followed by the commodity charge – the real cost for gas actually used.

However, this is immediately followed by an additional commodity charge (the GCGVA commodity rider, whatever that is, that somehow turns out to be a rather-small credit to ensure the confusion remains?)

It doesn’t stop there: then there’s the franchise fee and, hurray, the dreaded HST. HST, which is over $50, is followed by a residential energy credit, which is quickly offset by the carbon tax of just over $23, plus the HST on the carbon tax, (tax on tax, it’s true) of $2.80.

Which, if I have got it right, takes the HST back up to around $54. The last line is something described as Rec-carbon tax, and is a $1.93 credit.

I don’t want to talk about the bottom line which truly is as irrelevant as it is astronomical.

But I do want to comment on a little box at the side which informs that PNG has included, on an interim basis, an increase to these horrendous delivery charges by some 10 per cent while the BCUC gets around to fully reviewing their 2011 rate application.

If the interim increase is rejected, we can expect a rebate on a future bill.

On the back of the bill is an information box telling us how to understand our bill. This box clearly misunderstands our capacity for understanding, because it is missing a great deal of information (fizz, fume … check alternatives…).

What else is happening to bug me?

Christy Clark, as a candidate for leadership of the B.C. Liberal Party and, ergo, premier of the province did get under my skin when she suggested the sale of BC Rail, the Basi, Virk trial and its implications – including the $6 million paid by taxpayers for the guilty defendants’ legal costs – are “ancient history and it’s time to move on.”

When she was well aware of her role as a Liberal minister in the affair. (A conscienceless suggestion…)

Doubtless, with the NDP involved in a parallel leadership race, this issue will not likely be allowed to be swept under the rug – along with various other questions on Liberal policy and legislation – HST, IPPs and BC Hydro, as well as the host of environmental/industrial development issues and non issues that the “concerned” left are filling the internet blogs with.

The newest BC Liberals membership list incudes the players on the Kamloops Blazers hockey club, but none of them knew about it.

Kevin Falcon is dealing with this one, while Christy Clark appears to be cancelling the paid membership of a friend’s family cat.

I was astounded too with the speculative and highly publicized ferry fare threats, suggesting that northern fares could double in three years. Coming from the million dollar man, the highly-overpaid CEO of BC Ferries, David Hahn, talking on Shaw cable, there’s little doubt this was a trial balloon.

In a kind of fireside chat, he speculated on the inevitable increases in fares in general, if the province doesn’t chip in a significantly larger amount of contribution to BC Ferries.

Perhaps it was well-timed to attract the attention of leadership candidates, but also designed to scare a lot of users.

It also re-emphasized the mess the Liberals have made of ferry operations and facilitated some sort of political deja vu after the NDP made its own unholy mess of ferry policies. (Hypocritical on Hahn’s part, and also demonstrative of the dual realities of ferry operations, north and south).

However, it will no doubt resonate with and produce the required reaction for the “independent” ferries commissioner who it appears is required to rule on B.C. Ferries proposals by the end of March.

(The public and ferry users need to make a lot of noise about cost-cutting alternatives and the high overhead of BC Ferries, now and in the past.

On the lighter side, I know I’m in an older age bracket and thus cannot be expected to understand, but entertainment media references to 16-year-old Justin Beiber’s “body of work” don’t so much irritate me as they amuse me.

ahewitson@telus.net