Looking at the parties’ Site C Dam decisions

A letter to the editor my Mark Crawford

To the editor:

In the True Spirit of the Season, we should all have sympathy for Premier John Horgan and his NDP government for having the courage and the political common sense to recognize that they had been painted into a corner on the Site C project. To lay off 2,000 workers and end up to 10,000 person-years of employment for the region (at Christmas time no less), and then raise BC Hydro rates 12 per cent (or cancel other major promises), just to write off $2 billion of wasted money was just too hard to do. Sure, there is a good chance that the Site C Dam will not look great in 20-30 years time— there is the little matter of nearly 100 kilometres of flooded river valley, including thousands of acres of prime farmland, precious native burial sites and private homes—-but it is possible that the extra energy will come in very handy, and it has been estimated that it could prevent between 30 and 70 million tons of carbon dioxide from spilling into the atmosphere.

It is far more likely, however, that history will be unkind to the BC Liberals for the way they forced this issue through. When demand for electricity was unexpectedly flat (due to growing efficiency) and the price of renewables fell about 60 per cent over the past decade, the Liberals should have delayed and re-evaluated the whole project. After all, why flood the Peace River Valley if you don’t have to? Instead, they pulled BC Hydro out of the Utilities Commission, in part to prevent just such a re-evaluation from ever taking place. The so-called Clean Energy Act (CEA) mandated Powerex, Hydro’s marketing division, to sell surplus power from the Columbia Dam to the U.S. grid. It then prohibited the expansion of the natural-gas-fired Burrard Thermal Plant, in part one suspects because the Liberals wanted Site C to look more necessary than it really was.

A group of UBC economists, backed by more than 370 academics across the country, issued a 160-page Report called Reconsidering the Need for the Site C Project. Its conclusion: “that the business case for Site C is weak and that the massive energy infrastructure project that will erect a third dam on northern B.C.’s Peace River is at high risk of becoming a stranded asset that will generate losses of between $800 million and $2 billion atop the project’s projected $8.8 billion capital costs.” In other words, this was the choice that the B.C. Liberals bequeathed to us: either waste $2 billion by cancelling the project, or waste an additional $2 billion by continuing the project. The only difference is that the former would have to be paid for in the short-term on top of huge lay-offs, while the latter can provide jobs in the short-term and be amortized over a much longer period.

Thanks, Christy!! And a Happy New Year.

Mark Crawford

Assistant Professor, Political science at Athabasca University

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. government eyes antlerless moose harvest increase in bid to save caribou

Antlerless moose hunts reduce predation for threatened mountain caribou, says ministry

UPDATE: Williams Lake RCMP suspend search overnight for suspect on the run

Public asked to keep eye out for suspicous activity

CRD gives final approval for three new wheelchair-accessible trails

The CRD secured $100,000 through a rural dividend grant and matched an additional $30,000

WildSafeBC hires new co-ordinator for Cariboo region

Mareike Moore said the main message is keeping wildlife wild, communities safe

Are you sending your children back to school?

The weekly web poll for the 100 Mile Free Press

If Trudeau won’t stand up to Trump, how will regular people: Singh

Trudeau did not directly answer a question about Trump’s actions amid protests

Murder charge upgraded in George Floyd case, 3 other cops charged

Floyd’s family and protesters have repeatedly called for criminal charges against all four officers

As two B.C. offices see outbreaks, Dr. Henry warns tests don’t replace other measures

Physical distancing, PPE and sanitizing remain key to reduce COVID-19 spread

Young killer whale untangles itself from trap line off Nanaimo shore

DFO marine mammal rescue unit was en route as whale broke free from prawn trap line

Racist incident shocks Vancouver Island First Nation

Port Alberni RCMP investigating after video shows truck wheeling through Tseshaht territory

Vancouver Island school principal mourns brother, cousin killed during U.S. protests

Jelks says he’s grateful for the outpouring of support from the community in the wake of this tragedy

RCMP, coroner investigate murder-suicide on Salt Spring Island

Two dead, police say there is no risk to the public

B.C. schools see 30% of expected enrolment as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

Most Read