FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Politicians, organizations, and other stakeholders have begun sharing their reactions to Premier John Horgan’s announcement Monday that construction of the Site C dam will be completed.
Site C was projected to cost $8.3 billion to complete, but the government now estimates the project will total $10.7 billion. An estimated $4 billion has been spent so far on the dam and the NDP government was debating whether to continue construction or cancel the work midway through the job.
The financial impact of cancelling the project on ratepayers and B.C.’s bottom line were the major factors in the government’s decision to proceed rather than cancel. The government says the province risked a credit downgrade and debt-servicing costs of up to $150 million annually if the project was cancelled and the treasury absorbed the $4 billion loss.
B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, whose party has agreed to support the minority NDP government on confidence and supply issues, issued a statement after the announcement.
“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.”
“This government promised to be better than the B.C. Liberals. On this issue, the NDP government’s approach has turned out to be no different whatsoever.”
“Since the beginning, I have been concerned this would end up being a political decision. Today’s announcement reflects a sad reality for B.C., and British Columbians deserve better. They deserve a vision grounded in bold ideas that will enable our province to be a leader in the 21st-century economy, not more empty campaign promises and political calculation.”
“The government’s argument that cancelling Site C is too risky due to debt is incredibly cynical. This is a question of priorities. They 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.”
“Today, Site C is no longer simply a B.C. Liberal boondoggle – it has now become the B.C. NDP’s project. They are accountable to British Columbians for the impact this project will have on our future.”
“We have seen what is happening to ratepayers in Newfoundland because of Muskrat Falls, a similar project, where rates are set to almost double. I am deeply concerned that similar impacts are now in store for B.C. ratepayers.”
The Wilderness Committee also reacted with shock and anger at the news that B.C. Premier John Horgan has given Site C the green-light.
“We are extremely disappointed by this decision,” said Wilderness Committee National Campaign Director Joe Foy. “Allowing this money wasting, human rights abusing boondoggle of a white elephant to proceed will go down as one of the worst blunders in B.C. history.”
“This dam is an assault on the human rights of the Indigenous people of the Peace River Valley. The province is so worried about the two billion dollars sunk into it already, but that is nothing to pay for reconciliation. You can’t say you are committed to United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and then approve the Site C dam.”
However, not all reactions were negative. The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association’s president Chris Gardner issued a statement saying that his association was pleased with the government’s announcement.
“With so much at stake for our province, better late than never for John Horgan and the NDP Government to support Site C,” said Gardner. “This entire process and all of the uncertainty it caused was completely unnecessary. In the past four months, we have seen a rushed review and needless NDP-Green politicking create uncertainty and confusion that put this clean energy project, and the thousands of jobs it supports, at risk for no reason.”
However, Gardner did voice his concern for Horgan’s plan to implement a project labour agreement and enforce apprentice numbers on the project.
“By tilting the playing field in favour of the 20 percent of the construction industry represented by the traditional Building Trades unions, the NDP is driving up costs to finish the dam. Not only is this unfair to the 80 percent of construction workers in B.C. not affiliated with an NDP-aligned union, any time you distort the market, erode competition, create more bureaucracy, and remove flexibility, it costs more. Unfortunately, the taxpayers of B.C. will be stuck with the bill.”