Smart meter opponents launch B.C. initiative

A group of B.C. residents is following the lead of the Fight HST campaign with an initiative campaign that might trigger a referendum on BC Hydro's smart meters.

Saanich electrician Walter McGinnis, who speaks for the group Stop Smart Meters, says the public is demanding a say in the installation of the meters.

"This is just a desire to be included in the decision making processes of the province, otherwise known as democracy. People want to have chance to have a say in a democratic fashion," said McGinnis.

The Stop Smart Meters campaign will gather names of volunteers before submitting an application to Elections BC to register an official initiative campaign, he said.

If approved, the group would seek to trigger a referendum on the meters by collecting signatures of registered voters on a provincewide petition, much like the campaign that eventually led to the end of the province's HST.

The group is opposed to the meters for a wide range of reasons, including the possible health effects of the wireless technology, the cost of the program, and concerns about privacy and hacking of the systems.

Smart meters under fire

Opposition to the smart meters has been growing in B.C. and in other parts of the world, including California.

On Tuesday night a delegation of about 30 people asked Richmond City Council to vote for a moratorium on the installation of smart meters. The council has asked staff to report back on a number of issues surrounding the meters by the beginning of November.

Last month delegates at the Union of B.C. Municipalities annual convention passed a resolution calling on the government to halt the program.

But both BC Hydro and the province's energy minister have said it's too late to stop the billion-dollar conversion of all the province's 1.8 million hydro meters to the wireless meters. More than 100,000 smart meters have been installed so far.

The meters measure residents' power consumption and then use wireless signals to beam that information back to BC Hydro, with the aim of making the province's energy grid more efficient, sustainable and better able to respond to outages.

BC Hydro says the smart meters only broadcast several times a day, and that living next to a smart meter for 20 years would expose a resident to the same level of radiation as a 30-minute cellphone call.