Site-C Dam Must Go!
BC Government Re-Commits to Site C Dam
More Excuses, Dishonest and Money Wasted.
May 1, 2021
In a press conference on February 26, 2021 heavy on excuses and light on accountability, BC NDP Premier John Horgan announced that the government would continue building the Site C mega-dam in the Peace River Valley of BC. The partial information Horgan released proves what many have warned since the project was first given approval in 2014, and the sheer amount of excuses and dishonesty on display during the press conference merit a rebuttal.
- This Disaster is Horgan’s
Premier Horgan doubled down on his excuse that the previous Liberal government had forced Site C beyond the point of no return. The problem with this is that Premier Horgan had the opportunity to cancel the project when first elected in 2017. At that time, a BC Utilities Commission report found the project was already behind schedule and way over-budget. It also found that BC Hydro’s forecast for future electricity needs to justify the dam was “excessively optimistic” especially given that wind, geothermal and other sources were becoming increasingly viable and could provide similar benefits to Site C at a lower cost.
Horgan had a golden opportunity to stop it once and for all 4 years ago! Instead he decided to continue. Three years and $8 billion dollars later he has no excuses left.
- Ballooning Budget
When fielding questions from reporters, Horgan did not provide any firm answer on how his government would ensure the dam’s budget would not increase further. For example, this most awkward non-statement: “I am confident that the numbers that we put forward today are certain for today.”
Well then what about tomorrow?
The new project estimate is $16 billion, almost double the $8.3 billion 2014 budget. BC Hydro has missed every single cost projection, and can’t promise they won’t go over by billions more due to massive, unresolved and dangerous geotechnical issues.
- Economic Necessity?
Horgan’s co-presenter, MLA Bruce Ralston (Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, representing Surrey-Whalley) attempted to make the case that the Site C dam is already about halfway built, and that it must be finished so that it can generate revenue (by charging for electricity generated by the dam) in order to pay for itself.
This “throwing good money after bad” logic has been an obvious disaster so far. They are basically telling people in BC that because they’ve already wasted so many billions on the project, that they need to waste untold billions more – even when cheaper and more sustainable sources of energy are already available.
- What About the Jobs?
Ralston tried to further defend the megaproject by mentioning that 4,500 jobs would be lost if the project were cancelled. We believe these 4,500 temporary jobs do not outweigh the massive and irreparable damage that the dam would cause. It is also well within the government’s capacity to organize for the 4,500 people who hold those jobs to work on energy projects that safe, longer term, and far more environmentally sustainable
- Indigenous Sovereignty
Horgan claimed that the NDP government has “a good working relationship” with the West Moberly Nation, whose territory he is planning on flooding if the dam is completed. However, during the press conference Horgan also admitted that the West Moberly Nation will be taking the government to court next year opposing Site C. By what definition is violating treaties with Indigenous Nations by flooding their land and then facing them in court “a good working relationship”?
- Clean Energy?
Horgan and Ralston made frequent mention of how the Site C dam would be a vital part of moving BC’s energy sources away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner ones. While hydroelectricity is environmentally preferable to fossil fuel energy, the location and size of the Site C dam pose their own dangers to the environment. Completing the Site C dam would unleash devastating floods on the Peace River Valley, home to one of BC’s most unique and fragile ecosystems with vast potential for sustainable agriculture. Horgan and Ralson made no mention of these environmental concerns at all in this conference.
- No Demand for New Electricity
For more than 10 years, total domestic electricity in BC has not increased. Electricity conservation budgets are a tiny fraction of BC Hydro’s annual expense, only $100 million out of $5 Billion! Imagine how much power could be saved if the conservation budget were increased by 10 times! Other utilities across North America are saving up to 3% per year, not increasing use. Imagine our electricity bills declining 3% every year because we are careful and use less!
- Undermining Public Trust
When asked if he regretted the decision to continue with Site C, despite promising not to do so in his electoral campaign, Horgan answered that it was “a hard decision”, but that he also somehow had “no regrets” about it. This is more than a disappointment: it is a betrayal to those who supported him after he promised a substantial change from the previous 16 years of profits-before-planet BC Liberal government.
No one elected to public office in the last decade – especially those who campaigned specifically on climate justice and Indigenous rights as Horgan and Ralston did – has any excuses for their miserable failures of leadership when faced with real decisions on both. Imagine working so hard to get elected only to maintain the same status quo? It would be comedic if the consequences for the rest of us weren’t so tragic.
We’ve had bad decisions from bad governments before, and have no choice but to keep fighting for climate justice and Indigenous rights and to demand that the Site C dam mega-disaster is cancelled immediately!