Emily Jaycox editorial

Responsible governments plan for disasters

What happened in Texas last week during the cold snap that left millions without power is the perfect example why fiscal planning is so important and what the role of government should be.

The record-setting cold temperatures caused widespread blackouts in the lone state. It’s thought the weather caused natural gas pipelines to freeze, interrupting the fuel from reaching power plants.

As many as 46 weather-related deaths, most of which were in Texas, have been reported and several million people were without power for several days.

It seems clear that the state’s power grid simply wasn’t winterized, but others have questioned whether that was because power companies were more concerned with making profits than providing services.

Texas has its own power grid, that stands alone from the federal power grid, and it’s also deregulated. The majority of the state’s power is controlled by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

ERCOT is owned by a non-profit corporation with a board of directors, but is subject to oversight by the Public Utility Commission and Texas Legislature.

So is the failure of the power grid the fault of the private or public sector? That’s for greater minds to determine, however, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the fault of renewable energy.

Some have blamed the failure on wind turbines which also froze, which may have contributed to the problem, but Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has stated that wind and solar power only account for about 10 per cent of the total power grid.

The former mayor of Colorado City Tim Boyd has resigned after a callous post on Facebook that said, “No one owes you (or) your family anything; nor is it the local government’s responsibility to support you during trying times like this!”

He also said “only the strong will survive” and if you’re without water it’s up to you to “think outside the box” to provide for your family, and if you don’t, it’s because you were raised to be lazy. (cbsnews.com)

Wow. Just wow. Now I enjoy the show Parks and Recreation as much as the next person, but I recognize that it’s satire, and the fictional character of Ron Swanson is a hyperbole of a disenfranchised public servant.

Or is he? Maybe he’s more realistic than I thought. Boyd seems to have been channeling the anti-government-services-Swanson hard.

Now I don’t have a degree in political sciences and I don’t know all the differences between governance in the States and Canada, but I’m fairly certain that at least in this country, the main purpose of local government is to provide services to citizens.

A smart municipality has some kind of contingency plan in place to continue providing essential services, such as power and water, during a crisis.

A responsible government has to have reserves and some form of insurance for such occasions, however unlikely.

For example, the Town of Ponoka made the move back in November, 2020 to create an electrical self-insurance reserve by allocating $100,000 from the electrical capital reserve. It will maintain that balance in case of major electrical service disruptions, however unlikely.

Town council voted to create its own self-insurance, as most large utility service providers in Alberta consider weather-related damage to electrical infrastructure insurable.

So here’s to a forward-thinking town council and administration on this item and a salute to Canadians who still know how important snow tires are, as surviving cold weather is practically a national trademark.