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British Columbia’s New Democrats are demanding full public hearings into the sale of B.C.-owned Terasen Gas to American energy giant Kinder Morgan.

This proposed sale will affect every family and thousands of business in British Columbia,” said NDP leader Carole James. “The Campbell government has an obligation to put the public interest first and demand open public hearings in every region of this province.”

According to NDP energy critic Corky Evans, on Sept. 9, the B.C. Utilities Commission held a procedural conference to consider the sale of Canada’s third-largest public utility without the benefit of public hearings. Evans claimed the Campbell government flew an official to Vancouver to inform the BCUC that the province had “no position” on public hearings.

B.C.’s energy minister, Richard Neufeld, dismissed public concerns regarding the sale, suggesting concerns largely manufactured. Neufeld stated instead that anyone with concerns could simply write a letter to the BCUC.

The B.C. Liberals want to slip the sale through under the public radar to avoid serious scrutiny of the deal,” Evans charged in a news release. “Already, Terasen executives are awarding themselves big financial bonuses in anticipation of this sale, while the public is left with skyrocketing gas bills and little say in a deal that could have serious environmental implications.”

B.C. media has reported that an internal Terasen memo indicates senior executives are poised to cash in stock options worth $20 million if shareholders approve the transactions at meetings in Vancouver on Oct. 18. Earlier in September, the BCUC approved a 13 per cent hike in natural gas prices.