BY BILL PHILLIPS
Perhaps it was because she was the last speaker of the night. Or perhaps it was because no one could stop her.
At any rate, Dr. Agnes Pawlowska-Mainville went past the five-minute time limit for speakers at the British Columbia Utilities Commission public input session regarding the Site C dam Friday night by two or three minutes.
In a rapid-fire presentation, Pawlowska-Mainville, executive director the Northern B.C. Public Interest Research Group, outlined why the group does not support further construction of the $8.3 billion dam on the Peace River.
“The Northern B.C. Public Interest Research Group is not against development but it is against irresponsible and unnecessary development,” she said. “Site C is expensive, incomplete, and heavily flawed as can be seen in the environmental assessment documentation.”
The Northern B.C. Public Interest Research Group is a collection of scholars, academics, and community organizations. It is an independent, non-profit society that, according to its website, “supports direct action and research on topics and issues in the public interest with the goal of working towards global and local social and environmental justice.”
Pawlowska-Mainville said economic growth is often seen as a means to development, but with Site C, economic growth is presented as an end in itself.
“It increases consumption levels and creates short term jobs, it has the appearance of economic development in the North,” she said.
She added the $8.3 million cost of the dam is only the beginning, saying that figure does not include the cost of transmission lines, convertors, ground stations, access roads, construction campsites, excavation sites, rock quarries and much more.
Pawlowska-Mainville added there are negative social impacts which are not counted in the cost of the dam.
She listed several reasons why the group feels the dam should not proceed.
“Site C should be cancelled because it will disrupt land-based livelihoods of farmers, local growers and Indigenous harvesters,” she said. “We are flooding an economy and we have no idea how much it is contributing to B.C.”
Site C will not provide employment opportunities as predicted, she said.
“Most employment resulting from the Site C project, will be short term,” she said. “Employment generation will be associated largely with the labour intensive construction phase,” she said. “This boom and bust nature of employment is known to be damaging to individuals and communities.”
Pawlowska-Mainville said the environmental assessment process is flawed, pointing to the federal government’s recent move to revamp the process.
“Site C is not based on best-practices and continues a disrespectful relationship with First Nations,” she said, pointing to an offer of lump sum payments to Indigenous groups.
“Why not revenue-sharing?,” she asked.
She suggested Site C and its contractors donate some time and energy to the local communities to help build roads, infrastructure, and housing.
She urged the British Columbia Utilities Commission to have a complete cumulative social, economic and environmental assessment conducted, prior to any flooding. She said there should also be a thorough economic assessment of the region, as is.
“If we’re going to flood it, we might as well know how much we’re flooding,” she said.
She also said independent stakeholder committee, at arms-length from BC Hydro, should be formed to conduct relevant social and environmental research into the project.
She added that Indigenous communities should have a veto over the project.
“Terminating this project is the right thing to do,” she said.
Listen to Dr. Agnes Pawlowska-Mainville’s presentation