Jessica McDonald Named New BC Hydro CEO

Jessica McDonald | BCBusiness
Incoming BC Hydro president and CEO Jessica McDonald

The province’s former deputy premier takes the reins of BC Hydro during challenging times, with big capital investments—and substantial rate hikes—on the horizon

Jessica McDonald, the right-hand woman of former premier Gordon Campbell, was introduced Thursday as the new president and CEO of BC Hydro, effective July 14th. The appointment comes at a critical time for the multibillion-dollar public utility, which is facing the triple-barrel challenge of revitalizing aged, expensive infrastructure while keeping rates in check and stickhandling controversial capital projects such as the Site C dam on the Peace River.
“BC Hydro has an important role to play in growing British Columbia’s economy and I look forward to leading a dedicated, skilled workforce and a strong capital investment program so that our customers can continue to benefit from an affordable, reliable and safe electricity system,” said McDonald in a prepared statement. Bill Bennett, the provincial energy minister with responsibilities for BC Hydro, noted that McDonald had “the right mix of skills and public and private sector leadership experience to ensure we keep rates down while BC Hydro invests in our electricity system.”
The longtime civil servant, who was deputy minister to Premier Campbell between 2005 and 2009, currently serves on the board of directors of ICBC and, until recently, ran her own consultancy, specializing in management and organization performance, as well as commercial mediation and negotiation. In a 2006 profile in BCBusiness, McDonald explained that her motivation for getting into the political realm in 1990—then, as an intern with the ill-fated Socred government—was policy, not politics. “I wanted a career in the public services because of my curiosity about public policy issues,” she told writer Paul Willcocks.
In subsequent years, McDonald took on a variety of roles within the government, developing something of a specialty on issues surrounding land use, the environment and First Nations relations. As deputy minister to the premier, she was called upon to deliver bad news to cabinet ministers as well as to the public service, and was known to not back down from a fight. Said Dan Doyle, now Christy Clark’s chief of staff, in that 2006 profile: “She knows how to stick to her point and hold her ground.”