Site C

Akratic NDP

It’s easy to understand why BC Hydro argued that pushing ahead with Site C was the preferred option. A change in course would require directors and executives to admit their past decisions were colossal mistakes. Blunders that cost billions don’t help job security and do not enhance resumes.

That senior civil servants who had been Liberal cheerleaders for the project would argue for its completion is comprehensible. Again, not good resume building strategy to admit major judgment errors; better to hope everything works out in the end.

We also understand why contractors and workers would want a project to continue if it is putting money in their pockets.

akrasia 250

It is much harder to understand why politicians do an about-face when it involves rejection of their own well conceived policy alternative that offers less risk and greater benefit. The only explanation that I can imagine is that neophyte cabinet ministers suffered weakness of will and were reluctant to argue against “expert” advisors.

The BC Hydro Ratepayers Association continues to argue against the Horgan Government’s $11 billion effort to flood an 83 kilometre stretch of the Peace River valley. The organization asks:

Were the Unions and the workers duped by BC Hydro and the NDP building Site C? Are these people the biggest losers in this politico? BC’s workers will bear the burden, in lost jobs and higher electricity rates.


Unions and Workers: The Biggest Losers in Building Site C

While in opposition, the NDP party developed an energy strategy for BC, called “PowerBC”. It outlined a variety of options available and preferable to hydro-electric mega-projects such as Site C, in northeast BC, which will flood the Peace River valley, BC’s last untapped agricultural resource.

PowerBC was almost visionary. It used a combination of sensible electricity options rather than a single massive project, costing billions, that will not produce power for 10 years. It focussed on electricity conservation as the preferred option, using Columbia Treaty and non-treaty electricity, if and when needed, Burrard Thermal power and ongoing upgrades to existing hydro-electric infrastructure. It was a promising plan.

The BC Building Trades Union produced a report called “Jobs for Tomorrow”. It was also almost visionary. Again using sensible options, the strategy outlined how many good family-supporting jobs would be available from a variety of improved building techniques, community power systems and transportation changes and electrification. These jobs would be distributed throughout BC communities over many decades rather than simply concentrated around Ft. St. John during Site C’s single decade construction window.

Then what happened? The election of 2017 gave the NDP and Greens just enough seats to form a majority, with two ridings having less than 400 votes separating the NDP from Liberals!

What happened with Site C remains a mystery for the BC public. In a decision traumatic for many British Columbians, John Horgan and his caucus declared that PowerBC was dead, and that Site C would be continued, in direct contravention of his pre-election and election speeches and promises. The decision denied the evidence from the BC Utilities Commission review, and a former Joint Review Panel’s recommendation. Horgan, absent credible evidence, complained that “my hands were tied”, but has not revealed how he was held hostage, or by whom. The public has a right to know.

With the continuation of Site C, the thousands of jobs identified in the NDP’s PowerBC and the unions’ Jobs for Tomorrow vaporized. What was left were a few hundred workers moving dirt in the hinterland, and a few hundred more in BC Hydro’s headquarters moving their pencils, telling the hinterland what dirt to move and where.

Continuing with Site C effectively commits BC to pursue 20th century technology while the rest of the world outpaces us with respect to cutting edge, renewable energy technologies for the 21 st century.

Mother Nature cried out. Unexpected “tension cracks” appeared in crucial dam foundation areas. More dirt was moved. More cracks developed. The cost escalated. At almost $11 Billion and climbing, Site C will require seven decades of payments to cover the costs. Maybe they won’t be covered. Ever.

And what of the jobs from PowerBC and Jobs for Tomorrow?

BC Hydro’s 2013 Integrated Resource Plan looked at hundreds of options for electricity use and generation. It showed that 44,000 person-years of work would be involved in building Site C. It also showed that a dedicated conservation strategy would create 100,000 to 115,000 person-years of work; almost three times the number of jobs, co-incidentally at less than half the cost of Site C.

PowerBC and Jobs for Tomorrow also described how innovation would create
thousands of additional jobs. Was a” bird in the hand” worth the three we could have had? Are we sacrificing thousands of tomorrow’s jobs for a few hundred today?

Part Two

Electricity rates will increase dramatically as a result of Site C. Union workers lose again, not just long-term jobs they might have had, but now they will have to pay for the electricity that was not needed, with higher prices!

Site C adds only 7% to BC’s power supply, but will add 40% to Hydro’s debt. That is NOT a good financial deal. And it is the union members who will be hurt by these rate increases! Rates have risen by 70% over the past 10 years with no increase in domestic power sales! Rates must continue to increase to pay for Site C. And as rates increase, we (industrial customers especially) use less power, so not only do we not need new projects like Site C, but rates inevitably spiral up, while use spirals down. This is the utility death-spiral which ratepayers will pay dearly for!

Electricity rates represent substantive costs for all businesses, costs that must be reflected in the prices of the goods and services produced. Very large industrial users are able to avail themselves of bulk electricity purchase rates, which end up being subsidized by all other hydro rate payers. However smaller and medium-sized employers, which employ the bulk of BC’s workforce, do not have the leverage to negotiate the favourable rates available to only the biggest players. Those higher electricity rates put pressure on smaller to medium sized employers to shave costs elsewhere, whether that is in wages, benefits or other working conditions as well as higher prices. Higher electrical rates act as an impediment to starting new business enterprises and maintaining existing ones.

Have the union workers been betrayed on both the jobs and electricity rates? Were union members sacrificed to get the NDP elected? How many thousand more jobs will be lost because of high power prices? How many thousand good, family supporting jobs will not be created due to the abandonment of Power BC?

There are far too many questions remaining, with too few answers. One thing is certain, that the union and non-union workers lost, big time, when Site C was not terminated.

Part Three

The good news is that it’s NOT too late. We can stop Site C now, before we go
over the economic and employment precipice. We can still create thousands of good jobs across the province with the unspent $8 billion we will waste on finishing Site C, a project we do not need and cannot afford.

If I were a union worker and did not want to see another 50%+ rate increase in electricity in the next few years, more job losses in the small to medium-sized businesses, and instead help a prosperous economic future across BC, I’d contact my union leadership and demand a campaign to Stop Site C, now, including returning to the vision of PowerBC to build a vibrant, green and prosperous economy for all British Columbians And I’d call BC Hydro and sign up for all the power savings programs, too.

Roger Bryenton, P. Eng. (former), MBA
Dr. Eoin Finn, PhD. And Jef Keighley

Categories: Site C

12 replies »

  1. IMO-does it work this way?-pay ipp for power and we have to turn off/bypass BC public dams sometimes, under contract,creating BCHydro as a defacto tier 2 secondary supplier.We pay ipp to not make power also.?
    we bypass Columbia river treaty power rights for what reason?
    we forbid burrard thermal from being used?
    we build Site C for power that is triple current wholesale rates ie 900m =300m?
    we invest zero in geothermal potential?
    we can look into racketeering like lawsuit?

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  2. Thanks, that’s a very cogent essay. I still suspect there is a third way, to build it in-house, slower and with local labour ie cheaper (no foreign middlemen) but that’s not mentioned. Also I really like the idea of using Burrard Thermal more often when needed and for better uses eg shaping power exports to get top prices. JTwigg

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  3. I read a report sometime ago saying that Site C dam will silt-up in the 1st 20 years of its use and will produce about 50% of it’s power potential. Apparently this also happened on the Answan dam on the Nile. Do you know anything about this Norm?

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    • Unless John Horgan finds the gumption to come out of hiding on this issue and publicly address the many other issues in BC, it will forever appear that he only spoke truth to power about power to gain power.

      Horgan, doing what Geoff Meggs tells him to do is both appalling and disastrous. Regional transportation in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley has past the point of no return.

      Building a $3 billion 5 km subway under Broadway and a $2.5 billion ill planned LRT, planned as a poor man’s SkyTrain in Surrey will not solve a thing and may force more people into cars.

      There are those in the NDP who think “Road Pricing and congestion charging will win them the next election and it it is this sort of blinkered thinking that lead the NDP down the garden path to the FastFerry fiasco.

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  4. A real news story thankfully reported again .
    Here we live in an astounding age of discovery yet socially the simple questions about the reasons, explanations about Site C go unanswered by the elected. Social antiquities with our “politic” abound as in a pawn shop.

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  5. In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, I haven’t convinced myself that this pointless waste of money white elephant has been given the right to proceed. Are there that many blind, ignorant, greedy people in a position to foist that on us? Apparently!!
    I’d still like to see some evidence that it is proceeding. Pictures of cars parked at the Site C Hilton, evidence of remediation of the tension cracks, evidence that there is earthmoving (by diesel spewing machines – not springtime dirt slides).
    I refuse to acknowledge the disaster!!

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  6. Hi,
    Thanks for your brave fight for justice for British Columbians. I was so naive about politics over past 18 years due to an illness described as the biggest medical scandal of the 21st century. Due to a probable Lyme (treated successfully) infections and a co-condition that caused me to faint and break my clavicle this past September, I had a bad relapse rendering me bedridden. My cognition was surprisingly good, so I began my journey into why would governments go to such lengths to not educate or research the disease and how to politically make it happen.

    The UK ME/CFS PACE trial study (fraudulent) in front of Parliament now, trying to deal with fall out from changing study design, vetting patients and recommending harmful treatments causing death and suicides. Health Canada stalls funding even though they know ME/CFS tops the list of unmet healthcare needs for decades. (Canadian Community Healthcare Study). Health Canada accepted Neurology rejecting the disease even though WHO designated it Neurological. 2015 Institute of Medicine report declared the disease to be serious and severe, and to put an end to psychiatry bias. I saw a neurologist for Trigeminal nerve pain in face and he told me all neurologists in Canada do not agree with with its findings, so no he wouldn’t take me on as a patient. Several years ago CDC ME/CFS $1 million funding misappropriated when funds were redirected. CIHR peer review in August 2016 turned down the single most substantial Catalyst grant for ME/CFS $600,000 based on a breach of policy by not providing expert peer reviewers. We cried foul and the policy quickly changed. I am 55 and for severe sufferers the life span is 58 years.

    Disease severity studies shows it worse than end stage AIDS, MS, heart failure, kidney failure etc. When patients go to doctor they are given antidepressants and harmful CBT and GET therapies. My belief is after 18 years of learning from studies is that toxins and genetics/epigenetics are primers and disease is triggered by infection and sustained by toxins. People with true ME/CFS do not pump nutrients in and toxins out of their cells well. Gulf War Syndrome caused from toxic gas has much in common with ME/CFS, and 100,000’s were permanently disabled. We are the canaries in the coal mine. High rates of autoimmune diseases, hormone diseases, asthma, multiple chemical sensitivities, cancers in pulp mill towns and near other industries have to account for something. Add to that, the big glyphosate toxin (hormone disrupters) Monsanto coverup, the toxins are throughout our food system. Why do so many ME/CFS patients have wheat intolerance? Italy and other European countries don’t want our wheat because of the spray before harvest that is encouraged in Canada. Canada’s bullies are suing through WTO to get them to accept it. Or look at the recent 1.8 billion corn GMO settlement with U.S. farmers when China wouldn’t accept it a few years ago.

    With the mergers of the big agri-chemical, tech seeds they now control more than 65% of the world markets. They will continue to kill soils leaving behind baron dusty fields. They are selling the politicians and public the wrong message. Product is safe if used properly, and the need to feed the world. If we cannot protect and designate 50% organic agricultural lands for our food security, we will suffer poor health along with future generations. Our agricultural economy will continue getting hit when more and more countries turn down GMO and glyphosates.

    I read the LNG study on health effects near LNG by Site C opponents. Then 2 days later they were sued by BC Hydro to shut up. We know China does not respect human rights and they are clear about it, yet Canada approved Aecon take over giving the company preferential access to all construction in Canada. They will bring their own workers, poison water, food and air, kill rivers, ecosystems and wildlife because they and other industries are exempt from environmental laws, and sue anyone who speaks up.

    Just wanted to give you a peak into how that corruption under the BC Liberals and Fed PCs over past 20 years has led to human suffering and the loss of our human rights. It is only an illusion now. I hope they are proud of what they have done, and now sadly what Horgan and Weaver are allowing to continue.

    Again, thank you Norm for having the bravery to speak out and inform. Your articles helped provide a crash course in politics. I am naive and don’t have the answers but I try to raise awareness with MLA, MP and their leaders. Forwarding a simplistic email I sent to David Eby on KM negotiations. This is between you and I as I prefer to remain anonymous due to my health.

    Sharon

    >

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  7. Great article Norm; On other energy fronts we have been seeing a pattern that may in part explain what we are finding inexplicable, which is the deliberate over production of electricity that often ends up being sold into the US that never fetches the prices we know it is costing us the BCH customers, much more.
    Could this be a component of the NAFTA “proportionality” clause?

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