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.