NDP green lights Site C

John Horgan and the BC NDP will move ahead with the controversial Site C hydroelectric dam.

In a news conference this morning, Horgan said his government felt it had to move forward with the massive project, because it has now gone past the point of no return.

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

Horgan said cancelling the project would mean an “immediate” and “unavoidable” $4 billion hit to the province’s books, which would translate into a 12 per cent hydro rate increase, and forgoing a number of capital projects.

Horgan said he is aware many will be very disappointed, but that the government felt it had no choice but to make the “difficult” decision.

“I was not prepared to foreclose on the future generations by making a decision today that would make me feel good,” he said.

The Site C project, which will eventually see a third hydroelectric dam constructed on the Peace River, has been controversial since the BC Liberal party first embarked on it about two years ago.

First Nations and advocacy groups like the Wilderness Committee have been calling for a complete stop to the project, saying it is unnecessary and that the provincial government is ignoring potentially severe environmental impacts to give more business to the mineral and gas industry.

“Site C is not about meeting the electricity demands of British Columbians; it is about subsidizing BC’s oil and gas and mining industries. It’s an $8 billion taxpayer subsidy to a dirty fossil fuel industry that needs cheap energy to expand,” the Wilderness Committee has said in the past.

Prior to, and during the provincial election, Horgan was also extremely critical of the project.

Initially pegged at a cost of $8.3 billion, the government now estimated the project will cost $10.7 billion to finish. Once it’s finished, the dam will flood approximately 5,500 hectares along the Peace River.

Responding to questions about how the decision will affect his relationship with the province’s Indigenous communities, Horgan was blunt, but attempted a positive spin.

“I’m not the first person to stand before you and disappoint Indigenous people,” he said, “But I am the first to stand before you and say I’m going to do my level best to make amends for a whole host of issues… that have put indigenous people in an untenable situation.”

In a news release sent out today, the B.C. Green Party condemned what it called the NDP’s “reckless” decision to move forward with the project.

“Our caucus is extremely disheartened by this decision. It is fiscally reckless to continue with Site C and my colleagues and I did everything we could to make this clear to the government,” party leader Andrew Weaver said.

Weaver added that Horgan’s argument about taking on Site C’s debt is “incredibly cynical.”

“They (the NDP) had no problem adding billions onto the public debt to cancel the tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges, transferring those costs to people outside of the Lower Mainland to pick up votes in a couple of swing ridings,” he said.

The NDP was allowed to form government after the last provincial election thanks to support from the three Green Party MLAs. Horgan said today he doesn’t believe his Site C decision will break up the coalition.

During his announcement, Horgan said the government will embark on several initiatives aimed at lessening the negative impact of the project. They include a food security fund, reopening the standing offer program, better training opportunities and a new oversight committee.

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