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UBC Theses and Dissertations

B.C. Hydro is a major institutional force in extending and intensifying staples dependence Froschauer, Karl


Diversified industrial development was expected in British Columbia with the expansion of the public power supply. But B.C.Hydro, under the direction of the provincial government's industrial policy, produced an "unplanned surplus" of power and intensified British Columbia's dependence on natural resource processing (staples production). Four aspects of this problem are investigated: the provincial state's intervention in the development of hydro power, the use of the hydroelectric infrastructure to extend staples production, the planning for industrial power needs, and the surplus-induced intensification of staples dependence. Government, B.C.Hydro, and related documents reveal an increased intervention in the relationship between the supply of public hydro power and staples production (from 1945 to 1986). The first intervention emphasized building rural power plants and industrial electrification, the second, mega-dams and "industrialization-by-invitation," and the third, planning to build for export and surplus discounts to industry. Expanding the hydroelectric infrastructure became itself an industry which brought temporary regional, economic, and political benefits. During this period, the infrastructure provided access to natural resources and expanded staples production. B.C.Hydro and the provincial government were unable to plan industrial loads comprehensively, because of the unreliable commitments by staples producers. Nevertheless, the "surplus and debt-load shock" of the 1980s resulted in discounted electricity to staples producers and an increased dependence on the unstable U.S. electricity market. The explanatory framework of this thesis draws on staples theory (Innis, Watkins, Marchak) and Offe's theory of state intervention. This thesis is a contribution to understanding the repetition of the historical staples-dependent patterns which resurface in the interventions by the provincial state, as well as a de-mystification of the dreams that the development of public hydro power diversifies the industrial base.

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