Who will pay for the government’s smart meter fiasco?

Contract questions remain outstanding as manufacturer denies responsibility

Saskatchewan families want to know who will pay for the government’s $47 million smart meter fiasco – and a statement released Saturday by the manufacturer of the meters is denying responsibility.

The NDP says the manufacturer’s statement highlights the need for the contract details to be revealed, and for the investigation into the mess to be independent.

“It’s no surprise that we’re going to see government and the companies involved all start passing the buck,” said NDP Leader Cam Broten. “But if the contracts failed to have protections for ratepayers and taxpayers, it would be a shocking failure on the part of this government.”

In a statement released to media Saturday, the manufacturer says an investigation’s initial results “point to contributing external factors” as the cause of the fires. The manufacturer also pointed to the need for “careful meter installation procedures” as well as “training of meter installers and the need to have rapid remedial action when field problems are observed.”

Broten said it’s time for the government to come clean on the contract details regarding liability in the case of fires and failures, and also reiterated his call for the investigation to be independent in light of the manufacturer’s statement.

“I don’t want to see Saskatchewan families caught in the middle while the government, the American company it contracted this smart meter project out to and the manufacturer all argue over competing investigation results,” said Broten.

Broten added that the NDP is continuing to demand answers to a number of questions – including the actual number of fires that started while the smart meters were being installed, on top of the eight fires that started afterwards; the rationale for the government's decision not to require qualified electrical workers to install and now uninstall these meters; and the reason for the lengthy nine-month timeline to remove the fire-prone meters.

SaskPower estimated the cost of ending the program and switching the fire-prone meters with old-style meters to be $47 million after the minister initially pegged the price at $9 million, before revising his guess to $15 million. The government has not clarified how much of the nearly $200 million contract with the private American company has been paid, and how much will be recovered for ratepayers.

The government recently approved another 10.5 per cent rate increase for SaskPower customers.