Site C

An open letter about Site C

My computer has been idle during the holiday season, partly for an intended break but also because I’ve been laid low by a nasty bout of inflenza. After 2+ weeks, the worst seems to be over and I expect to resume normal activity in the near future.

As my reading of online material resumed, this open letter, posted on Facebook by John Gellard, stood out. The content deserves attention from members of John Horgan’s government.

January 6, 2018
NDP Community Office
2909 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC, V6K 2G6
To: The Honourable David Eby and Cabinet:

Dear Mr Eby:
Re: Thoughts on Site C, an open letter

I’m a long time NDP supporter living in the desperate hope that there is something I can say to help persuade you and the cabinet to reverse your decision to proceed with the Site C Dam. I am convinced that this is something you would dearly love to do. It may be that if you found a way to do it, the political will would follow. “Where there’s a way, there’s a will”, to quote Ken Dryden.

I’ve got used to the disappointment, and I’m beyond questioning the specious accounting trickery. There’s the question of the $4b, which might only be $2b, less than the abandoned bridge tolls. There’s the question why a money-losing $12b dam is an “asset” while the productive Valley itself has no amortizable value. There’s the bewilderment about destroying farm land that could feed a million people…and so on. I won’t bore you with the litany.

The bewilderment of course, leads to dark speculation and rumours about motives. Who are pulling the puppet strings that direct us along the path of economic nonsense and loss to the slough of bitterness and betrayal? Could it be true, for example, that a Chinese state consortium is taking over the spillway and generating station contract so that they can have cheap power for mining Bitcoin?

Can you see how silly it gets if you continue to hide things from your supporters? Was the decision made before the BCUC report came out? Was the BCUC process nothing but an empty charade? Again one can’t help but speculate and invent conspiracies.
So where is the hope?

Perhaps hope lies in the idea of the “Sacred” – Sacred Land, Sacred Nature. That idea never breaks the surface in economic discussion, but it is powerful. I was in the “Sacred Headwaters” on August 17, 2013 when a small group of Tahltan confronted Robin Goad of Fortune Minerals on the slopes of Klappan Mountain. The mountain was to become an open pit coal mine. “We’ll put it back the way it was,” said Goad. The Tahtlan made it clear that there would be no mine. “Enough is enough!” said Pat Edzerza. “Do you have a heart?” said Jerry Quock. “You have a devil’s heart.” Fortune minerals packed up and left, as had the Shell frackers the year before, leaving Imperial Metals to carry on with their copper mine on Todagin Mountain.

The “Sacred” is a powerful measure of an enlightened culture. Please let it into your thinking.

A place where the Sacred failed is the Arrow Lakes, which were sacrificed in the 1960s for water storage worth “tens of millions of dollars” according to WAC Bennett. A valley full of orchards, sandy beaches, kokanee salmon and viable little communities well connected by a ferry, was drowned. Now there’s a sterile reservoir that you never hear of. The life has gone out of it except for the village of Nakusp and a few remnant hot springs. One weeps to think of what might have been. It’s cruelly ironic that we are selling the entitlement to downstream benefits of the water storage because we don’t need the power.

So I implore you, honorable members of the cabinet, to revive the notion of the “Sacred”. Listen to the First Nations. That land you are about to destroy is an entire pastoral ecosystem with exceptional farming opportunities, a teeming wildlife reserve, breeding grounds with migratory routes for ungulates, predators, fish and birds, and hunting and gathering grounds for First Nations people.

If you destroy that land, you end up with a sterile, poisoned, unstable reservoir and a ruined Athabaska Delta . The harvest will be despair and resentment. No amount of “money” or “mitigation” will heal those wounds.

It’s worth mentioning, by the way, that Andrew Weaver, in Kelowna recently gave an excellent analysis of the economic folly of Site C, but he spoiled it by saying, “Well, it is green energy”. No sir, such ecological devastation cannot be considered “green energy”. Mr Weaver needs to consider the notion of the “Sacred” too.

So, please, ladies and gentlemen, you must revive the idea of the Sacredness of the Natural World. It was not put here for us to commodify and destroy. Here might just be the “way” that stimulates the “political will” to bring us out of the mess we are in. “Where there’s a way, there’s a will.”

Above all, let’s not go the way of the Arrow Lakes.

I look forward to being able to support the NDP or the Greens again. That will happen when Site C is cancelled.

Yours sincerely,

John Gellard

Categories: Site C

18 replies »

  1. Very well written letter, I agree 100%. In our capitalist world the Sacred just does not cut it. The only thing sacred to them is money itself. The NDP has just done themselves in. One and Done is the expression I am using. Too bad we all had such high hopes for some real change.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thousands of us have taken the long and winding road supporting John and Andrew every step of the way on the Site C dam and the pipeline to the Pacific Ocean. We thought they actually had integrity. Now we’re left wondering if we were had. That is what I firmly believe in. I will never support either party again. A fond memory? My yellow stick is still in the ground at the Peace until BC Hydro gives it a yank.

    Over the past couple of years I’ve watched many live stream episodes of question period at the Leg. Ms. Clark repeatedly belittled John and his party for representing the forces of NO. I can’t help but think just maybe Horgan didn’t want to be heckled by the other side anymore. In any event he has capitulated and everything else is history.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. If John Horgan and his cabinet held the nomina of the Peace River Valley sacrosanct we wouldn’t be in this unhappy situation. They owe those that do a fulsome explanation of why they don’t.

    But since they can not or will not even defend the rationale they initially did try, we shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for that explanation. Nor should we be expected to defend a rationale they won’t.


  4. I heard Mike Smythe and Baldry taking and Mike said , i paraphrase “the unions wanted site C and they got what they wanted” . And now that John is full speed ahead with what will surely be the BIGGEST debacle in BC history all of the bought and paid for media will all be on the NDP took an on time and on budget project and turned it into Fast Ferries X 1000. They will have ammo for eternity.


  5. Capturing hope and sadness in beautiful words: a plea and implied ultimatum I haven’t seen better put.

    Plainly some calculus went into the Site-C decision; just as plain are the missing variables—at least I’m hoping yet-to-be revealed variables exist because the numbers given don’t add up.

    No way to tell if the government could make me feel better about Site-C by fulfilling some other campaign commitment I also supported at the ballot box, like getting polluting fish-farms out of the Broughton Archipelago or pulling the plug on the BC Liberals’ bogus BC Ferry Services Inc.

    But that’d be like throwing me off the boat while assuring I have a seat reserved in the lifeboat that’s too small for everybody. Sacrificing some citizens’ wellbeing over others is so cynically calculating. And so Old-School.

    I suspect the hung parliament had something to do with the Site-C decision: the minority NDP might, especially if pro-rep wins the Referendum, have to face voters very soon afterwards (the Greens can topple the government if tempted by the probability of winning more seats under pro-rep). Maybe a Site-C write-down wasn’t doable in this short a time and the NDP feared going into an election with books reflecting the cost of terminating the project, even if that deficit was, in reality, caused by the BC Liberals— who have no qualm about pinning it on the socialists, despite that reality.

    Perhaps the NDP reasoned voters won’t clearly remember Site-C —or who’s really to blame for it— through the din of the Referendum campaign that might precipitate an election soon after: maybe it’s all about positioning the party with those contingencies in mind. Still, the calculus eludes me because pro-rep might not prevail.

    Maybe the NDP figured it won’t matter.

    Some variables we can guess: the NDP has lost support because of Site-C, and there are more than a few Greens upset Weaver didn’t use the hammer to force the NDP to stop it—he of course not wanting to topple the government before the Referendum. Yet, either party’s dance around the Site-C decision shines an ugly light on pro-rep: the hung parliament, balance-of-power politicking for the party’s sake instead of the public’s best interest— which is one of pro-rep’s biggest weaknesses. Since the government has yet to recuse partisan politicians from the reform process, nor authorized the Electoral College to limit misleading Referendum propaganda and spending, I expect the debate to be as loud and distracting as the contenders can make it—especially from pro-reppers who have to compensate for the two governing parties demonstrating so perfectly how pro-rep doesn’t guarantee better government.

    I can do calculus, too, but I don’t have all the variables. All I know is the party I’ve always voted for for nearly fifty years seems to be doing some calculus I can’t understand, just like I can’t that I’m still in the water over Site-C with no way to calculate or know if the government’s gonna throw me another cement life-jacket. But boy! if it starts looking like this is really all about looking after party interests before the province’s, and playing games with electoral reform just like the BC Liberals did, there’s probably no better time for a new party to present itself: all it’d have to do is put some sacredness into its platform to wipe out the other three.

    It’s getting pretty close for this old Dipper, I tell ya: the NDP is starting to look less sacred all the time.


  6. I too am 100% with you John. As you’ve perceptively summarized, the value of natural capital and associated ecosystem services have not been given consideration in the parochial “economic” deliberations regarding Site C. An informal analysis suggests that some 1,300 km of biologically rich, productive lowland, riverine valley forests and wetlands associated with former BC river valleys have already been destroyed by reservoirs.

    Site C would consume another 107 km, (incl. lower Halfway and Moberly Rivers). These amount to undisclosed, unaccounted for losses (Arrow, Kinbasket, Nechako, and Williston Reservoirs, to name a few). Once corridors with the locally largest trees and overall most productive ecosystems – those with exceptional capacity for carbon fixation (GHG reduction); greatest biological diversity, best wildlife habitat, as well as the most desirable pathways for transportation, recreation, and settlements.

    With their unnatural, wildly fluctuating (eroding) shorelines, potential for methylmercury (MeHg) bioaccumulation toxicity, lack of shoreline aquatic vegetation and related fish habitat, (hydroelectric) reservoirs offer few of the valuable ecological services afforded by natural lakes, which reservoirs are typically and incorrectly called (e.g. Williston “Lake”).

    Adding Site C reservoir (107 km long) to this “sunken” financial loss of natural capital associated with former river valleys (~1,300 kms), amounts to a loss in length of more than 1,400 km. That’s equivalent in length to more than BC’s longest river, the 1,375 km Fraser River from its headwaters near Mount Robson to its mouth at Vancouver. Green energy? Greenwash!


  7. Could someone, anyone, everyone please identify, name and shame the people behind the curtains manipulating the strings attached to all of our feeble minded BC politicians.
    They must be getting something pretty substantial to betray their supporters and fellow BC’rs in such a dastardly evil way.
    We see in the background shadows the ghostly apparitions of Morgan, MacLean, Edwards and others who have all profited handsomely from the BC larder, but who are the others that run the big companies that get all the overpriced government contracts that are surely sending the rest of us to the poorhouse trying to pay for their greed.

    Who in particular is pulling the strings attached to the Horgan and Weaver marionettes?

    ie: How did a less than stable genius like Gordon Campbell accumulate the funds to build a $10 million mansion on our coast?
    How did a grade twelve graduate(?) of the BC education system that fails none up to grade twelve acquire a financial portfolio exceeding $3 million?
    How did a sociopathic Steve Harper who had no wealth before politics develop a portfolio in excess of $6 million while his renowned finance minister died with only a paltry worth including long time Toronto family home of less than$1 million?

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Mr. Horgan and his party are now officially dead and buried to this voter. I’ve voted for that party for 50 years, donated funds, scrutineered, done recounts, taken the day off work to drive elderly voters to the polls…stood nose to nose, toe to toe with non-NDP voters and won them over with FACT…to have it come to this. NEVER AGAIN MR. HORGAN. You and your party (and you as well Mr. Weaver) will never see my face, or receive funds or a vote from me again as long as I live. Congratulations one-term wonder!

    Never. Again.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Quote:
    “What has been talked about a lot less in B.C. is that the new Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline would use 1,046 gigawatt-hours of electricity per year (PDF, page 64), or the equivalent of about 20 per cent of the production of the Site C dam (about half of that power will be consumed in B.C. with the other half being consumed in Alberta).
    In B.C. that power will be sold at a subsidized rate and is expected to result in a cost to BC Hydro of $27 million a year.”


  10. Five Things Horgan Should Have Done About Site C:

    “5) Repeal the Clean Energy Act.

    The province is now working with a dangerous piece of legislation that was created to push Site C forward, said Eliesen.

    The Clean Energy Act, passed by the Campbell government in 2010, politicized electrical decisions in order to facilitate the Site C project.

    It stripped the BC Utilities Commission of most of its key oversight powers.

    In addition, it limited BC Hydro’s ability to build new generating facilities and removed the gas-powered Burrard Generating Station from its Integrated Resource Planning — a project capable of producing almost as much power as Site C.

    The law also mandated that 93 per cent of the province’s electricity must come from “clean and renewable energy sources,” even though the science does not regard dams as clean.

    The Site C bias engrained in the Clean Energy Act extended to the BCUC inquiry.

    The Horgan government constrained the Site C review by mandating that the BCUC must adhere to the energy goals of the Clean Energy Act.

    As a result, the BCUC couldn’t explore existing and cheaper options to increase electrical capacity such using the Burrard Generating Station, B.C.’s electrical entitlement under Columbia River Treaty or adding a turbine at the Revelstoke Dam.

    If the Burrard Generating Station had not been removed from BC Hydro’s Integrated Resource Plan, there would be no need for Site C, Eliesen said.”



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