Opinion

Smart meter deniers’ last stand

Sharon Noble started campaigning against a cell tower near her Vancouver Island home. Years later, she fights on against smart meters, impervious to evidence. - Black Press files
Sharon Noble started campaigning against a cell tower near her Vancouver Island home. Years later, she fights on against smart meters, impervious to evidence.
— image credit: Black Press files

VICTORIA – The news was trumpeted with alarm here on Vancouver Island, which along with the Gulf Islands is the heartland of tinfoil-hat opposition to smart meters.

Of the 140,000 power customers who didn’t have a wireless meter by the end of the year, many have simply refused. Now BC Hydro has sent letters informing them “we can no longer delay the installation of a new meter at your home.”

“StopSmartMetersBC” sent out a panicky e-mail advising its resistance movement to brace against “storm trooper tactics” from BC Hydro staff, and urging phone and fax attacks on their local MLA office.

“Anger and outrage should be expressed, in a quiet way, so that we don’t sound hysterical, but people are being threatened, police called, etc.,” the anonymous e-mail helpfully suggests.

BC Hydro has also confirmed what I told you a few months ago. Those bogus locks, chicken wire cages and important-looking signs, which were sold like modern-day snake oil, have no legal effect to prevent the utility from working on its own equipment. These obstacles to inspection have been and continue to be removed, along with dangerous grow-op bypasses and fiddled mechanical meters.

The technical arguments against wireless meters have been demolished. False news reports and website claims still circulate, but no fires have been attributed to the installation of 1.7 million wireless meters in B.C. About 1,200 faulty meter bases have also been replaced at BC Hydro’s expense, and as crude power-theft bypasses have been removed, the incidence of electrical fires, already rare, has dropped substantially.

Another popular myth is increased electricity bills. Yes, if your bypass is removed, your bill will go up. Like gas pumps, power meters are required by federal law to be accurate.

Which brings us back to Team Tinfoil, which has been sold a cascading series of fantastic tales about the effect of wireless signals that are already ever-present in all modern communities.

A Toronto-based expert group called Bad Science Watch has tackled claims of “electromagnetic hypersensitivity” head-on. I highly recommend their 10-page report and qualifications, which you can find here.

In plain language, with references to the best available scientific studies, it describes the double-blind tests that prove people who claim this sensitivity are not actually able to detect when they are or are not being exposed to wireless signals. No X-Men candidates have come forward.

It also exposes key “activists” in Canada. The most prominent is Dr. Magda Havas, an associate professor at Trent University who has “developed a career denouncing the safety of low-frequency electromagnetic radiation.” She gives speeches, promotes her book and has worked with one David Stetzer to promote an “EMF filter” to sell to those who insist they feel what science shows they don’t.

Havas has appeared on TV “news” shows with “activist-entrepreneur” Kevin Byrne. His website appears to be a hub of cell tower and smart meter scare reports, but it’s interspersed with product pitches for EMF Solutions Canada, of which Byrne is coincidentally president.

Then there’s “entrepreneur-activist” Rob Metzinger, president of something called Safe Living Technologies Inc. He doesn’t run a lurid scare website, but he’s appeared on CBC and CTV as some sort of authority. (The main hazard emanating from TVs these days is bad information.)

As the election approaches, a fight is gearing up between the NDP and the B.C. Green Party for the ignorant, superstitious and angry vote. The Greens in particular have damaged their credibility in a desperate bid to quiet their own tinfoil-chapeau wing.

There are bozo eruptions ahead. I’ll have more on that in a future column.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com

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