Horgan, John

NDP Cabinet needs a reality check

Harry Swain, having served as chair of the federal-provincial review panel for Site C, is qualified to provide a project analysis. The BC NDP caucus should pay attention because Premier Horgan has mishandled Site C at every step.

Rule Number 1: If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

Doing the right thing now involves Premier and Cabinet admitting to a years long series of blunders. That’s not likely to happen without severe pressure from their enablers.

Even that hope is likely futile because humility is not a common trait of politicians. Pride makes people reluctant to admit their own mistakes.

Carol Tavris, a co-author of the book Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me), believes self-concept — we’re smart, we’re kind, we make reasoned choices — is threatened by evidence that conclusions are mistaken.

People don’t readily alter self-concept so chains of error tend to lengthen.

Dr. Swain noted Premier Horgan’s first mistakes were failures to purge BC Hydro’s Board of “incompetent Liberal placemen” as well as top officials in provincial ministries. Among Victoria bureaucrats and the utility’s directors and senior managers, no decision maker had dam building experience.

However, they did share attitudes to electricity generation and distribution firmly rooted in the 20th century. Modern renewables were anathema so estimates of integration challenges and costs for Site C alternatives were outdated and grossly inaccurate. To the Joint Review Panel, BC Hydro reported prospective wind power costs at levels three and four times the prices on wind contracts other North American utilities have signed.

While grudgingly admitting to geotechnical and budget problems, Site C proponents pay almost no attention to environmental and cultural losses in the Peace River area. Despite government’s alleged commitment to the environment and to UNDRIP, NDP brushed aside this finding of the review panel:

…Replacing a portion of the Peace River with an 83-kilometre reservoir would cause significant adverse effect on fish and fish habitat, and a number of birds and bats, smaller vertebrate and invertebrate species, rare plants, and sensitive ecosystems.

The Project would significantly affect the current use of land and resources for traditional purposes by Aboriginal peoples… The project would inundate a number of valuable paleontological, archaeological, and historic sites…

Dr. Swain wrote The slippery slope of Site C for Focus on Victoria. It’s worth close attention. Some excerpts:

ON A TROUBLED PROJECT, there is a tendency for every sequential decision to narrow the options and increase the costs of the next one. Path dependency, once it has set in, makes out-of-the-box thinking harder and harder since it requires the proponent to say, “I was wrong.”

…The Commission [BCUC], with a short deadline and a restricted mandate, answered the questions asked, with evidence that came principally from the proponent BC Hydro. Despite some manful attempts to smuggle a few home truths into the text, such as around over-capacity and flat demand, the government allowed the Commission’s analysis to be savaged by the provincial bureaucracy. Second mistake. Premier Horgan and his Cabinet should have asked for the views of external critics as well. 

In consequence, the Premier wound up accepting, with a degree of public reluctance, a decision that flew in the face of basic textbook advice about the fallacy of sunk costs….

He appointed a Project Assurance Board to continuously monitor BC Hydro’s promises, and a Technical Advisory Board of engineers and scientists. But—fourth mistake—he allowed the inmates to appoint the wardens and, suspecting the make-up of these boards would not withstand public scrutiny, acquiesced in a degree of secrecy of North Korean quality. 

…Mr Milburn‘s terms of reference were not released. However, despite the focus on dam safety, he had no independent expert assistance and was at the mercy of BC Hydro, its contractors, and the hapless Project Assurance and Technical Advisory Boards, which had obviously failed…

 If Premier Horgan chooses to finish the dam, the next election will coincide with the completion of the project—and the entry of Site C’s enormous cost to a rate base already stressed by having too much capacity. It’s far too late to blame things on their predecessors. The current government now “owns” the project in every sense.

Categories: Horgan, John, Site C

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10 replies »

  1. Clearly time to demand declarations of competence from everyone with signing authority through all levels of government.

    We can all see the disasters that result when decisions are made in ignorance of any facts or knowledge of the technology.

    Site C is not the sole disastrous decision made by BC Hydro, but it’s the largest. There is a long list of projects and spending that do not pass any level of a sniff test (e.g. BC Hydro’s attempt to create an app for phones, directed by Jessica MacDonald)

    Adding insult to injury, many of the key decision makers are promoted and asked to lead larger projects. Their resumes are littered with failed projects, but sold as “I managed $100 million worth of projects” – they omit the fact that the original budget was a cumulative $10 million.

    The incentive is to balloon the budget of any project they are involved in to inflate their own importance, to hell with ratepayers and taxpayers.

    The future holds many more disasters if these mismanagers are not exposed and removed. If you like site c, you’ll love the next round of projects the incompetents will dream up.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. The NDP never admit to making mistakes, thus never make mistakes. Doing the same thing over again (and over again) hoping to have different results seems to be their “modus operandi”.

    Those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it.

    Horgan, sadly (very sadly) does not listen to the people, rather he listens only to cadre of NDP apparatchiks who blindly ignore the realities of a situation and proceed with blind faith that the NDP will, in the end, triumph.

    This sort of thing brought us the FastFerries.

    Site C is now a $10 billion+ white elephant, which foundation is one of shifting shale. No matter how hard the NDP believe that it will succeed, it won’t.

    We see the same sort of thing with metro Vancouver’s rapid transit planning.

    After the initial Expo Line was built, the huge hidden subsidies paid to keep the line in operation (over $157 million annually), meant that expansion would be slow. The Expo line was built in the stages and the Millennium Line was built in two stages.

    The huge cost of the ALRT proprietary light metro was such that the GVRD planned for light rail for what was then called the Broadway Lougheed Rapid Transit project. Enter former premier Glen Clark and Minister McPhail who were so mesmerized by Bombardier’s inducements, that they ordered the hugely expensive and then called (renamed) ART system to be built as the Millennium Line.

    Despite clear and concise evidence that the proprietary ART system was far more expensive to build; far more expensive to operate; far more expensive to maintain; and lacked capacity, the NDP forced through the ART Millennium Line and brought us the infrastructure, known as TransLink to keep building with it.

    Sadly all has come true as the cost of the present light metro system (all three lines) is is over two times more than the originally planned light rail.

    The taxpayer is paying well over two times more for a product (transit is indeed a product) than it should.

    Including the $4.6 billion to extend the E&M lines 12.8 km, the taxpayer has anted up well over $15 billion for an inferior product, which should have cost no more than $6 to $7 billion!

    Site C is more of the same, a boondoggle, a white elephant and I am afraid like the FastFerries, will render the NDP impotent at the next election and they again maybe reduced to 2 or even 0 seats as the public see what a total sham the Horgan government is.

    I would say that the NDP hierarchy suffers from a mental defect, they have become Trumpian in thought and actions, they are malignant narcissists.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Is there anyway that certain decision makers in the Site C project, involving politicians/Government and BC Hydro, beheld accountable with breach of trust/fiduciary responsibility violations? And this question should asked even, if said decision maker, is retired. Does anyone know a fancy-pants lawyer who could answer this question?


  4. There is now an “Enhanced” Project Assurance Board so all BC residents and Hydro customers will be able to feel comfortable with the Horgan decisions. Yet to come are cost of lawsuits settling treaty infringements and further payouts to the corporations like SNC. Add the costs of financing over 50 years.and operating this boondoggle we will soon see credit ratings downgraded by Moody’s and similar agencies. Our children will pay Hydro rates beyond their capabilities and soon renewables such as solar wind etc. will seem cheap.
    Thankfully Hydro did not expand into large scale renewable energy projects! They would have screwed that up also !!


  5. I think attributing this fiasco to Horgan’s stupidity is very generous. I worry darker forces at work here, the same ones at play when Christy Clark began it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. When Joy MacPhail handed George Puil the keys to transit authority in greater Vancouver, I doubt she was even out of the building before her smile for the cameras became a relieved chuckle in private.

    Similarly, Christy Clark must allow herself a secret grin when she watches John Horgan’s mug slowly replacing hers in the Site C blame frame. The point of no return she arranged for him will look very modest when the shale dust settles on Mr. Horgan and the NDP.

    Neither of the two experts Horgan has requested to consult on Site C safety are strangers to BC Hydro. They have served on advisory boards in the past, John France on Strathcona, Ruskin and Blind Slough dams, and Kaare Hoeg on the Hugh Keenleyside and WAC Bennett dams.

    As Harry Swain writes, “They cannot say the project is without risk; their professional reputations depend on having enough weasel words in their report so that if anything does go wrong they can say they warned the government.”

    They’ll recommend; they won’t certify. Which will still leave Horgan with the decision he’s been trying to kick down the road for several years.

    And either way, he won’t be grinning and chuckling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • But Horgan could have stopped it.

      He could have said; “We are stopping this projects because we have learned from the FastFerry debacle, inheriting mega projects, designed for political decisions made before our tenure in office, normally end in a financial fiasco. This dam was designed for the 1990’s but in 2019 the landscape has changed dramatically and this dam will become a very expensive white elephant.”

      He didn’t and now will reap the whirlwind in 2024.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. A key quote from Harry Swain: “…a degree of secrecy of North Korean quality.”
    Why has CBC not hammered away at this issue? Where are the calls for a Charbonneau-style commission of inquiry?

    Liked by 2 people

  8. And a royalty rate drop to ZERO on nat gas?

    BCHydro spent 16 billion dollars over 16 years all the while basically flat hydro demand?

    BCHydro 1 billion dollars gambeled away in derivatives?


  9. For me, the important thing is getting this waste of money and integrity and resources stopped. From that perspective it doesn’t matter who is to blame, so if it takes forgiveness in order to have Hydro and the government accept that this can’t go on, I am willing to give it. People, and corporate people, make mistakes, it doesn’t take largess to recognize that, but we need to stop this white elephant from trampling all of us.


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