Site C gets green light from government


BC NDP leader John Horgan


The Site C hydroelectric dam is past the point of no return, says Premier John Horgan.

Pointing the finger as the “mismanagement” of the previous Liberal government on Site C, the current NDP government has decided to complete construction of the estimated $10.7 billion project.

“Although Site C is not the project we would have favoured and it’s not the project that we would have started, it must be completed to meet the objectives our government has set,” said Horgan.

Horgan said cancelling the project would have resulted in an immediate $4 billion loss to either BC Hydro or the province, which would have resulted in a 12 per cent increase in electricity rates, whereas completing gives the province an opportunity to recoup costs.

“Although it will cost more than $10 billion to complete, over time those costs can recovered over time by the sale of electricity,” Horgan said.

Horgan said the decision was not an easy one and he was extremely critical of the previous Liberal government.

“It’s been a difficult journey,” he said. “This is a very, very divisive issue and it will have profound impacts, not just on the people in the region, not just on the people working on the project, but on all British Columbians, for this generation and the next generation.”

He said the Liberals pushed, and succeeded, to get the project to the point of no return before leaving office earlier this year.

“They got it to the point of no return, that was their whole point,” he said. “It wasn’t about public policy, it wasn’t about energy policy, it wasn’t about the best interests of British Columbians. It was about getting the project past the point of no return.”

He blamed “mismanagement” at BC Hydro for double-digit rate increase … 24 per cent in past four years and close to 70 per cent since 2001. He also slammed the Liberal government for “raiding” BC Hydro’s accounts to balance the provincial budget.

Construction of the Moberly River construction bridge, looking northeast. (October 2016)

Had government decided to cancel Site C, it would have taken on the project’s $3.9 billion in debt, made up of $2.1 billion already spent and another $1.8 billion in remediation costs. As public debt, it would become the responsibility of BC Hydro customers or taxpayers.

Horgan said that in moving forward with the project, his government will launch a Site C turnaround plan to contain project costs while adding tangible benefits. The plan will include:

  • A new Project Assurance Board that will provide enhanced oversight to future contract procurement and management, project deliverables, environmental integrity, and quality assurance – all within the mandate of delivering the project on time and budget. Based on current projections, BC Hydro has revised the budget to $10.7 billion.
  • Establishing new community benefits programs, mandated with making sure that project benefits assist local communities, and increasing the number of apprentices and First Nations workers hired onto the project.
  • A new BC Food Security Fund – based on Site C revenues – dedicated to supporting farming and enhancing agricultural innovation and productivity in the province.
  • In addition to funding for province-wide food security projects and programs, the turnaround plan will:
    • Ensure the Peace River Legacy Fund implements solutions to longer-term environmental, social and economic issues.
    • Activate the $20-million agricultural compensation fund to offset lost sales and stimulate long-term productivity enhancements in Peace Valley agriculture.

“We’re taking the steps the previous government showed no interest in: a solid budget, enhanced review and oversight, community benefits, and an eye to the future,” Horgan said. “We’re putting an end to the years of energy policy that put politics ahead of people – where government forced BC Hydro into costly contracts, hiking rates for homeowners and renters, and delivering dividends to government it simply couldn’t afford.”

Horgan added that the government will also be pursuing an alternative energy strategy to put B.C. more firmly on the path to green, renewable power that helps the province exceed its climate goals.