BC Hydro

Site C: Government failure to safeguard the public interest

Green Party MLA Sonia Furstenau talked about Site C in the Legislature August 12. She directed comments and questions to Energy Minister Bruce Ralston:

In 2017, the B.C. Utilities Commission found that we could cancel Site C and replace the electricity with renewables, including wind and solar, at the same or lower cost to British Columbians. Now, three years later, Site C is facing even more massive cost overruns and delays than were predicted.

My question is to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. The minister has said that he doesn’t know how high the costs are going to go, and yet he’s still saying that Site C is past the point of no return. How can this be when we don’t even know how deep the fiscal hole will be? Is there a price tag that will make the government walk away?

Is there a price tag that will make the government walk away?

Ralston did the usual. He blamed BC Liberals for pushing the project beyond the point of no return.

And yet, no one is capable of defining a breaking point. Is it fifteen, twenty or thirty billion dollars?

In response to Furstenau, Ralston said:

We knew there were cost pressures and risks on the Site C project when we formed government. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically added to these challenges.

I’ll leave aside the ludicrous suggestion that COVID-19 is involved in Site C’s serious geotechnical and budget problems.

That Ralston, Horgan and colleagues knew about cost pressures and risks three years ago and chose to proceed shows the NDP wholly owns this fiasco. Had Site C been stopped in 2017, the loss would have certainly been less than the difference between the initial budget and the final cost.

Probably far less, if lessons from eastern Canada apply.

On March 10, the long-awaited 1,000-plus page final report of the Muskrat Falls inquiry became public, revealing a project so misguided and predetermined that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador “failed in its duty to ensure that the best interests of the province’s residents were safeguarded.”

Muskrat Falls report slams Nalcor CEO, province

Commentators to whom the NDP once paid attention warned of project cost uncertainties and also reminded party leaders that BC Hydro was consistently wrong about demand growth and that prices of alternative energy sources had been steadily dropping.

I am convinced results of the NDP’s Site C review were predetermined even before July 2017. The misguided project was to continue whether guided by Liberal or NDP hands.

Everything that followed the May 2017 election was political theatre, including the constrained BCUC review, which happened as construction proceeded. Had there been any chance the project would be terminated as a result of BCUC conclusions, work on Site would have been suspended during the regulator’s examination.

A current cabinet minister suggested to me before the election that laying off a few thousands Site C workers would be politically damaging and therefore impossible.

What he didn’t talk about was the NDP’s dependence on large union organizations that had provided millions of dollars to the party in the runup to the 2017 election and were paying salaries of top BC NDP campaign staffers.

In December 2018, John Horgan announced that Site C construction would continue. He claimed, “We do it with a heavy heart.”

Yet labour organizations who enabled Horgan to become Premier were celebrating. One example was LiUNA:

Yet, when the NDP cabinet issued the August 2018 Mandate Letter to newly appointed BC Hydro Chair Kenneth Peterson, it specifically stated the utility was to “continue to deliver your planned capital projects…”

Regardless of whether restoration and shutdown costs were $1 billion or $ 3 billion, whether the cost of Site C electricity would be double or triple that of less destructive alternatives, the die was cast.

Beyond replacement of two senior officials who had been in place despite questionable credentials, NDP leadership was determined that BC Hydro would carry on as before.

As with Muskrat Falls, the BC Government has failed in its duty to ensure that the best interests of the province’s residents were safeguarded.

Categories: BC Hydro, Site C

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15 replies »

  1. ” laying off a few thousands Site C workers would be politically damaging ”

    Didn’t I read several times that all you could see around Site C was Alberta plates ??


  2. The NDP, they remember nothing and they have learned nothing.

    Blinded by their own rhetoric and ego, the NDP believe they can do no wrong.

    Site C is an anachronism, based on dated thinking and political ignorance. Fro the NDP, jobs are more important than public safety, and should read “Union” jobs.

    This is the FastFerry trap. letting politics interfere with reason; having cost of the program more than doubled from $210 million ($70 million/vessel) to almost $460 million ($150 million/vessel) and final delivery was almost 3 years behind schedule.

    The FastFerries, themselves were also an anachronism, designed for the proposed Iona Island to Gabriola Island route with a 40 minute crossing but redesigned for the 90 minute plus Horseshoe Bay/Tsawwassen runs where they were a complete failure.

    The NDP had FastFerries hang around their necks like a dead Albatross and the party became “toxic” in the next election.

    The Millennium line was more of the same; instead of a Arbutus to Coquitlam LRT, as was envisioned by the GVRD, we got light metro (SkyTrain) and because light-metro was so expensive, the line was built in two stages, the Millennium Line, due to the huge costs, later the Evergreen line, which name has now disappeared.

    Little ridership, as evidenced by 2 car trains, and greatly reduced service at weekends, the Millennium Line is a expensive financial millstone around metro Vancouver Taxpayers.

    The NDP are doing the same with SkyTrain expansion in Surrey and the Broadway subway. They never learn from previous mistakes.

    Site C will blow up with cost overruns, and will in the near future become a political liability, such as the FastFerries.

    As Norm and other bloggers has so aptly shown, there is no need for Site C, the need disappeared at the end of the 20th century as new technology has made the dam a dinosaur looking for a tar pit.

    Maybe the NDP will soon follow?


    Premier Horgan said that in moving forward with the Site C dam, his government will launch a Site C turnaround plan to contain project costs while adding tangible benefits. The plan will include:
    * A new Project Assurance Board that will provide enhanced oversight to future contract procurement and management, project deliverables, environmental integrity, and quality assurance – all within the mandate of delivering the project on time and budget. Based on current projections, BC Hydro has revised the budget to $10.7 billion.”

    There is currently a lot wrong with the politics and legislative oversight in the United States. But even in the midst of the clusterfudge going on there now, there would quickly be asses in witness seats being publicly and mercilessly grilled if a public debacle of comparable magnitude was allowed to happen under the watch of a public entity whose sole mandate was to prevent it.

    Here, where we proudly think we have a better system, we get one of the foxes (feathers still sticking to his whiskers) inspecting the chicken coop. And when said fox reports back that he detected a faint warmth somewhere amongst all the loose feathers, the message from John Horgan is predicable.

    “Eggs will continue to be laid. Trust me.”


  4. I do believe a lot of blame has to be put on our mainstream “media”……….they blatantly called those who frequent places like Norm’s lunatics ranting in their underpants. Now I see articles by “journalists” such as Rob Shaw questioning Site C……..where were they in the beginning? Dare I mention same scenario with IPP’s. That being said, Fazil Mihlar still has a job.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think that the reasons, explanations for the NDPs continuance of this boondoggle need to include the intense lobbying pressure of the oil and gas industry at both the federal and provincial governments. They have manged to get unheard of subsidies out of every political party in BC, Alberta, and the Liberal/Tory governments federally. From carbon tax relief to ‘cheap’ electricity for green washing purposes. I understand that Union pressure, and probably 20th century style technocratic advice also impacted the mistake to continue.

    The jobs have been there, the work has turned out to be a disaster. The LNG dream is gone and climate change is going to get worse before better. The cost to British Columbians of building the dam is definitely going to get worse, and the need for the valley is going to get higher.

    The danger of slides, either into the dam, or into a reservoir is real. It isn’t a percentage of chance one way or the other. The slides will happen either because of fracking induced earthquakes used to free up the gas from the shale that Hydro is building their spillway/ generating station on, or just because if Hydro fills a reservoir the feet of those 7-800 foot high river banks will get wet, and when shale gets wet it turns back into mud. And then it settles, slides, slumps, and surges to its lowest possible position.

    The NDP has failed to come to terms with the fact that all of the problems associated with Site C are getting, and will continue to get, worse. According to the BCUC report it is still cheaper to Stop Site C and let the valley heal itself, and opt for the alternatives, than it is to continue.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. The NDP Party Policy was against Site C. So much for policies developed by the Grass Roots Constituents. Prior to the Dam going forward local NDP members toured John Horgan on the Site and spent countless hours on providing information showing why it did not make sense to continue the Dam Construction. Like it is stated in the article Horgan had made up his mind to proceed in spite of significant opposition to the project. I was a long term member of the NDP and would have been eligible for a life time membership. Margaret (My wife) and I both resigned from the party the day of the announcement of the Continuation of the Dam Project. It took a significantly long time for even the “Engineer” Dave Conway to admit that there was no solid rock for stability at the dam location.
    James and Margaret Little


  7. First law of holes, if you find yourself in one; stop digging.

    Best way out of this is to re-engineer this project into a less destructive run-of-river project.

    If this dam is built, we will see other dams in the province reduce maintenance and possibly retire the old assets completely to reduce the energy surplus.

    Solutions are simple; the courage to implement solutions seems not to exist in BC.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Quote: Solutions are simple; the courage to implement solutions seems not to exist in BC.

      I have to agree 100%

      The fear of admitting to a mistake overpowers common sense.


  8. In the event you have not seen it, there’s a Change.org petition started by Hadland Randal on July 19, 2020 (Tell the BC Government to Protect the Peace River Valley Ecosystem). This petition includes a well-summarized resolution list on the Site C boondoggle — well worth reading, sharing and signing:

    Site C is a horrific, shocking financial and ecological disaster, demonstrating what happens when politics override common sense and best practices science.


  9. I do have a post kindergarten education (in engineering, as a matter of fact), but even without that I know this project is beyond redemption. SHUT IT DOWN, FFS!
    Before Ma Nature takes it into her own hands to do so, with catastrophic consequences.
    As RanD has observed, the very real likelihood of shale slide failures within the reservoir will cause mini tsunamis capable or wreaking havoc within the dam, foundation failures will transmit to dam failures and the list goes on……..


  10. Stupid reckless politicians if they continue Site C when they and everyone knows the instability issues and cost over runs now. Personally I do not believe for a minute that stabilizing the dam foundation in that area can be done and keep back the power of land moving. Arrogant idiot politicians leaders, Hydro jerks and special interests. As long everyone is getting paid, turn the cheek.


  11. It would be refreshing if politicians of all stripes would accept responsibility for their actions and not blame their failures on the previous government. Effective government requires strong and responsible leadership going forward a quality that is increasingly lacking in politicians today


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