FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The President of the Fort St. John and District Chamber of Commerce says that there would be “considerable” local economic impacts if the provincial government decides to cancel construction of the Site C dam.
Chamber President Nelson Stowe said that the direct impacts would be that the 626 PRRD resident contractors employed in building Site C* would be laid off long before construction is planned to be finished in 2024. Stowe said that in addition, many local businesses that are both members and non-members of the Chamber involved in providing services, procurement and purchasing for contractors working on the project, would also suddenly find themselves with lower revenue.
“During the downturn of the oil and gas industry, I believe Site C started just as that was happening, and I think that was helpful to our community as a whole,” said Stowe. “We probably would’ve felt the impact of that downturn a lot more if we didn’t have that dam start right at the same time.”
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Stowe said that while the remediation of the dam’s construction site would be part of Site C’s cancellation, he feels that there would be significant immediate layoffs since the project is currently not geared toward shutting down. “I can’t see them sitting there with 2,000 employees while the planners try to design and figure out how to remediate the site,” Stowe speculated. Energeticcity.ca left a message with a BC Hydro spokesperson asking whether the Crown Corporation has a contingency plan prepared in case the government cancels the project, but that phone call has not yet been returned.
Stowe said that the biggest concern with the Site C review is the uncertainty surrounding the project, especially since the BCUC panel did not make a definitive recommendation in its final report. He explained that many Chamber members have called and expressed their concerns about not knowing what the decision is going to be. “There’s nothing worse for a business than uncertainty. Uncertainty is worse than knowing the truth. Knowing what the future holds is plannable, you can mitigate against good and bad. But when you don’t know, that’s the hardest thing.”
Stowe said that while the Chamber has advocated for local businesses to reap as many of the benefits as possible from Site C construction the Chamber has and still does officially maintain a neutral position on the project, not coming out against or in favour.
*That number is from the latest Site C employment statistics provided by BC Hydro for August, 2017.