FLETCHER: Dam delay disaster for NDP

By on June 12, 2017
Chris Gardner of Independent Contractors and Businesses Association displays more than 2,200 "pink slips" that would go to workers on BC Hydro's Site C dam site if was shut down after two years. (Photo courtesy of the ICBA).

All political sides in B.C. agree that the creation of B.C.’s original hydro dams on the Peace and Columbia river systems was a work of visionary genius by former premier W.A.C. Bennett. It’s helped build the forest, mining and aluminum industries among others.

And yet the final stage of B.C.’s vision, the Site C dam near Fort St. John, has been an international target for protest. Even Amnesty International jumped on the fundraising bandwagon to denounce it as an affront against indigenous rights.

Others claim they see insufficient demand for its power, an odd notion in an era of a national carbon tax and big subsidies for electric vehicles. Or they make outlandish claims about the valley’s agricultural potential, usually from far away in the southwest corner of B.C.

(As a former Peace Country homesteader, I’m ready to debate anyone on that.)

And now provincial government paralysis threatens to delay critical diversion work during the fall window of low water on the Peace, postponing it by a year and adding $630 million to the cost, according to BC Hydro’s detailed estimate.

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver continues to claim that Site C is only being built now to provide cheap power for a liquefied natural gas industry he insists will never materialize. To borrow one of Weaver’s favourite phrases, this is simply not true. BC Hydro’s project plan specifically excluded large-scale LNG projects, whose proponents say they will power the main compression and refrigeration with gas.

Former Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett (an admirer but no relation to W.A.C.) officially ends his term as B.C. energy minister this week, with the swearing-in of a temporary B.C. Liberal cabinet. I interrupted his fishing to ask about the threat to the project he spent the last four years studying and approving.

Weaver’s LNG theory is “a made-up, fictional narrative, and he’s the one who made it up along with some folks on the left,” Bennett said. 

Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier noted last week that he has a picture in his Dawson Creek office of himself standing with Weaver and former premier Gordon Campbell at the W.A.C. Bennett dam, announcing Site C on April 18, 2010. Weaver supported it then, as someone dedicated to greenhouse gas reduction, but that was before he got acquainted with the organic carrot-waving base of the B.C. Greens.

Incoming premier John Horgan promised during the election campaign to order an immediate review via the B.C. Utilities Commission, but to continue construction in the meantime. Then on May 31 he wrote to BC Hydro CEO Jessica McDonald and asked for a further delay in relocating two farm families who have insisted on staying after their home sites have been expropriated.

Last week BC Hydro executives set out the “domino effect” that delaying the relocation of two houses would set off, delaying road and bridge construction and then the river diversion set for fall 2019. Shutting down and restarting the main civil works contract, storing the turbines and generators and other effects add up to an extra $630 million cost to BC Hydro ratepayers.

As for shutting Site C down completely, two years into an eight-year construction plan with nearly $2 billion already spent, Bennett has a final prediction.

“I know [Horgan] has supported the project in the past,” Bennett said. “I don’t believe for one second he’s going to cancel a project that has 2,200 unionized workers on the site, with thousands more to come, 80 per cent of them from British Columbia.”

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

4 Comments

  1. Darrell Texmo

    June 12, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    What worries me is whether this was another get rich scheme by Christie Clark to sell cheap electricity to the U.S. California has been drooling at the idea of tapping into yet another Canadian grid.

  2. xavier kopin

    June 12, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    another EXODUS to ALBERTA will be under way
    NO PAY NO TAXES THANKS NDP

  3. xavier kopin

    June 12, 2017 at 9:53 pm

    anyone else get IT??
    greens = green colour
    ndp = blue colour
    liberal was RED colour
    WHAT COLOUR DO YOU FOLKS SEE THE
    FINANCES OF BC WILL BE??
    green?
    blue?
    orREALLY RED?

  4. glen rutherford

    June 13, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    The way the 2000 jobs are temporary but the forest devastation is permanent. We create enough electricity for ourselves and the Americans dont’ need to kill our forests to get more electricity. They already pay way less that we as Canadians do.

    Now that NDP is in we can look forward to some decisions that make sense for British Colombians instead of just Christy and her band of rich “friends”

    Finally we can see some strides towards actually fixing the broken health care system and look at the drug issues and homelessness. Christy didn’t’ even stand up and recognize the issues never mind make any strides towards fixing them.

    good riddance !

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