Site C's past, present and future

Premier John Horgan, who earlier denounced the project as a "boondoggle" that will leave British Columbians owing billions for power that may not be needed, confirmed on Monday that the project, already $2-billion into construction, is past the point of no return.

"I want to stress this is not a project that we favoured, it's not a project we would have started, but we're three years in", Horgan said.

"We contacted NDP volunteers, donors and members and trade unionists and said, well, get your views in", Gray said.

The NDP campaigned on having the project reviewed, a practice that was once standard in B.C. before the Liberals' clean energy laws allowed some projects to bypass review.

There were 1,974 workers tied to the project in October, according to BC Hydro's latest job statistics.

The massive hydroelectric project has been at the centre of a polarized debate between politicians, environmentalists, First Nations, labour groups and landowners in the Peace River Valley.

"We began to receive copies of letters and realized hundreds, if not thousands of NDP supporters were angry and anxious about the Site C dam".

In the announcement, Horgan said that had they chose to cancel Site C, it would have taken on the project's $3.9 billion in debt, made up of $2.1 billion already spent and another $1.8 billion in remediation costs.

More news: Black Ferns beaten in sevens quarter-final

Former premier Christy Clark gave Site C the green light in December 2014, saying the decision to approve the province's most expensive megaproject marked a historic milestone that would be felt for a century.

"But I am the first, I think, to stand before you and said that I am going to do my level best to make amends for a whole host of decisions, that previous governments have made to put indigenous peoples in an unwinnable situation. We've done that and we've come to conclusion that proceeding is the best way forward".

The province says the reasons it approved the dam was to minimize the impact on ratepayers and to preserve money for future capital projects. Supporters of the project warned that cancelling construction would throw 2,500 people out of work.

The province's independent energy regulator concluded in its report last month that the dam is over budget and behind schedule.

And the provincial Cabinet's decision sailed straight into a potential legal challenge from the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations, that declared their intent to launch civil litigation against Site C arguing it infringes their treaty rights.

"For the businesses, for the families, for the local First Nations in the area, this is the right decision", said Mike Bernier, who represents Peace River South in the legislature. Stopping the project now would ensure there's no irreparable damage done to the nations' rights under Treaty 8, Willson said.

Site C has been part of the province's hydroelectric generation plans since 1958. It will also flood some 100-plus kilometres of the Peace River valley and its tributaries, including farmland and First Nations cultural sites. When complete in November 2024 it would produce enough power for 450,000 homes.

  • Rita Burton