Opponents of the massive Site C dam in northeastern British Columbia have wavered between hope and pessimism since the former Liberal government was defeated earlier this year. Since NDP Premier John Horgan needs the votes of three anti-Site C Green MLAs to remain in office, the project faced a major obstacle. Horgan asked the BC Utilities Commission to carry out a review, weighing up the fiscal pros and cons of Site C for the government’s consideration before a final cabinet decision expected in late December.
The initial news from this process pointed towards cancellation. As critics have long argued, Site C will likely cost at least $3 billion more than the previous estimate of $9 billion to complete. It also appears that other sources of renewable energy could provide as much power as this dam, without flooding irreplaceable agricultural land. Cancellation would preserve the unceded territories of indigenous peoples in the region. For a brief period, it appeared that former premier Christy Clark’s desperate drive to push Site C past the point of no return might fail.
Since then, proponents of the project have launched a massive PR blitz to confuse the debate. Cancellation would be too expensive, they argue, ignoring the future costs of lost food production. Jobs would be lost, they claim, as though redirecting government spending towards urgent social and economic priorities would not create employment. Renewable sources could not meet future energy needs, they say, using inflated projections. But perhaps most important, it appears that cancellation could contribute to increased BC Hydro rates, a political hot potato for Horgan.
Failure to halt this huge white elephant might bring the NDP some short-term relief on hydro rates. But the long-term costs would be devastating. This decision will be the first major political test for the new government; we urge them to do the right thing for the future of BC – cancel Site C now!