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Might only be relevant to residents of British Columbia Canada, but a new initiative in this province to essentially ‘re-call’ the BC Hydro smart meters program is a prime example, yet again, of political policy communications gone terribly wrong. Going further, this is an on going case where an established government still cannot read the tea-leaves, or understand, the online outrage, which morphs into real action, over lack of public consideration in policy decisions.

In a previous post I mentioned the HST tax policy which was roundly defeated after a prolonged petition and referendum campaign. Fact is, many who still voted ‘NO’ to the policy did so understanding the benefits of the new tax system, but wished to send a message to policy makers, and communication managers, ‘it is time to include more public discussion’

Notably, in British Columbia the anti-HST movement was able to harness the power of thousands to force a referendum through a petition campaign. The government program to change provincial tax policy was soundly defeated, despite a well-funded counter multi-media campaign to bring voters onside. The lesson to be learned is contemporary policy initiatives require extensive community and stakeholder consultation, in fact acceptance, before implementation. The ability for protest and effective citizen opposition, largely initiated through social media, is too apparent to ignore.

Now, likely building on the anti-HST movement’s success, a new group is forming using the same online and direct organizational tools to force a change in policy around new smart meters.

CBC Vancouver: 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.

The response from the government to the initial smart meter protest campaign is almost exactly the same wording as when the HST protest began – it’s a done deal, don’t bother protesting.

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. CBC

The point – as with the ongoing, and momentum building Occupy movement, disregarding public engagement in policy deliberations and implementation only drives protest. The open, loose, network of campaigners against smart meters are not identifying with quasi-science around emissions, they are against the implementation.

At least in British Columbia, we are witness to a host of movements reaching beyond established protest groups, essentially saying: politics as we know must change.

 

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