On Dec. 11, Premier John Horgan announced the British Columbia government was going forward with the controversial Site C hydroelectric dam.
The announcement means jobs can start again.
Horgan said the decision was a difficult one.
It appears economics won out over political promises, and now the Premier is facing heat from area Indigenous Peoples, members of his own caucus and the B.C. Green Party, which is very opposed to the Site C project. Furthermore, it was the Green Party that gave Horgan a slim minority government.
“At the end of the day, we’ve come to a conclusion that, although Site C is not the project we would have favoured or would have started, it must be completed,” Horgan said during the announcement.
“This is a very, very divisive issue, and will have profound impact … for a lot of British Columbians. We have not been taking this decision lightly.”
The New Democrats had been debating whether to continue the construction of the dam or cancel the work midway through the job.
According to the government, cancelling the project would result in a 12 per cent increase in hydro rates in 2020 and it would continue to skyrocket from there.
The NDP estimated $2 billion has been spent so far on the dam, which was started by the former B.C. Liberal government in 2014 with an $8.3 billion budget.
The Horgan government expects the project will cost approximately $10 billion, and has $700 million set aside in a reserve for overruns.
Locally, Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes says it’s a good decision for people in her constituency and folks in the north.
“When I was in cabinet [B.C. Liberal government], it was the most-reviewed project in B.C. history and we knew that going in.”
When the Horgan government decided to do more studies and more delays, Oakes says the B.C. Liberals knew what the consequences of that would be — it would be increasing the costs.
“As of June, [the project] was on time and on budget.
“Every day it gets delayed, it costs taxpayers money.”
When you look at Site C, the local MLA says “it’s clean, it’s quiet, it’s non-polluting, it’s renewable, and it works day and night, in calm or windy weather with no raw material depletion.
“That is the essence of the work that went into studying this important project.”
Oakes shifts gears and talks about the benefits for Quesnel when the first dam went forward.
“If you look at our pulp mills and our industrial sector, they have access to firm, competitive power. It’s critically important for manufacturing and for our communities.
“Do we think we should continue to work on other forms of renewables, absolutely and have we been doing that – absolutely.
“But Site C was the right decision. It was extremely well studied and it will benefit British Columbians for a hundred years.”