Two very different scenes unfolded at opposite ends of the province last week.
In the remote northwest corner of B.C., the first power line towers started going up to connect Highway 37 communities to the B.C. Hydro grid. The Nisga’a, Tahltan and other aboriginal communities will soon have reliable power, as well as much-needed training and jobs during clearing and construction.
Meanwhile down on the Gulf Islands, the most hysterical, dishonest campaign against smart meters I’ve heard of so far went into high gear.
I’ve obtained a mass e-mail from the head anti-smart meter organizer on Salt Spring Island that shows the mentality at work here. (Corix is the B.C. Hydro contractor that has installed more than a million meters and has approached the Gulf Islands with trepidation, the last area of B.C. to be done.)
“Corix is attacking with 30 trucks on Mon the 22nd,” Chris Anderson wrote in October. “Poelpe [sic] are advised NOT to attend the Victoria pipeline rally but instead help defend agianst [sic] spymeter installations in their neighbourhoods.”
Anderson’s self-appointed supporters fanned out across the island, attempting to turn away installers on the false assumption that everyone has fallen for their crackpot fear campaign. They managed to stop 12 per cent of the installations.
Anderson has been selling $35 meter locks to Salt Spring Islanders in recent months. They don’t work, and you’re not allowed to lock B.C. Hydro property anyway. Others have been sold official-looking “no smart meter” signs that don’t identify the customer, so they don’t work either.
As for the term “spymeter,” I’ve reported on the weird theories spread by Bill Vander Zalm in a video interview, where he claims smart meters are part of a global surveillance system that can even tell what you’re cooking. Vander Zalm has been outdone by one Brian Thiesen, who styles himself as the “chairman” of “Interior Smart Meter Awareness.”
In September, the Merritt Herald reported on Thiesen’s presentation to 20 unwary people in a church basement. He claimed wireless meters not only provide video surveillance of your house, they are also responsible for “dying bees” and “defective sperm and eggs” as well as disease and fires.
Thiesen even claimed radiofrequency signals can “pull your PIN number directly out of your head.” Is there no limit to the nonsense some people will fall for?
Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis co-authored a study that shows residential fires have decreased with the advent of smart meters. Which brings me to the ugliest opposition to this modernization, the criminal element.
Here in North America’s marijuana mecca, installers have encountered many meter bypasses, wired up to steal hydro and conceal high consumption for grow ops. In addition to being illegal, they are a fire hazard that is removed when discovered.
Installers also find more sophisticated cases of hydro theft. Removing the mechanical meter reveals a hole cut in the back of the case, so the dials can be turned back to hide a grow op’s power consumption. No wonder some people want to lock them down.
Of course all of this is defeated by a smart grid system, so the growers and other crooks are angry.
A B.C. Hydro official told me about one case where a user was told he had a bypass, and that it was being removed. His bill went from next to nothing to a reasonable level.
The customer complained to the media, falsely inflating the amount of his bill and blaming an inaccurate smart meter.
Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com.