Green Party leader Andrew Weaver says he won’t bring down the new NDP government if it chooses to continue construction of the Site C dam.
In an interview with CBC’s Stephen Quinn, Weaver said it would be “irresponsible” to let the government fail over such a decision.
“Ultimately, we will not cause government to fail over this decision,” Weaver said.
“But, they have invested a lot of political capital in this process, and let’s see if they actually make the decision that the evidence is suggesting should be made.”
Weaver, a former Site C supporter turned vocal critic over its ballooning costs and impacts on indigenous treaty rights, said the BC Utilities Commission final report on the economics of Site C was “unequivocal” in its meaning on the progress of the dam, now more than two years into construction.
The commission found the dam likely to cost $10 billion or more and unlikely to be in service by November 2024 if construction proceeds—this, despite BC Hydro’s and the former Liberal government’s repeated claims the project was on time and on budget.
Cancelling the project altogether would add $1.8 billion in termination and site remediation costs, leaving BC Hydro with $4 billion in sunk costs it would more than likely collect through ratepayers.
The commission has essentially ruled out suspending construction to resume at a later date, calling it the least attractive option facing government, adding at least another $3.6 billion to the project’s cost.
The NDP campaigned on a promise to send the dam to the utilities commission for review if it formed government—a reversal of the former BC Liberal government’s decision to exempt the dam from commission scrutiny in 2010.
The NDP ordered the commission’s review at the start of August, shortly after being sworn in after defeating the Liberals, which won the May election, in a confidence vote. The NDP was able to defeat the Liberals and form a minority government with the support of the Green Party’s three MLAs under a governance agreement.
“It is ultimately their political decision,” Weaver said of the NDP.
“We campaigned on a stopping Site C and we would have done so the day after the election. They campaigned on sending it to the BC Utilities Commission, and we agreed to go through that process.”
Weaver added: “We would not bring the government down, but we will do our very best to hold them to account and we will ensure the voices of those people who felt betrayed are heard in the legislature on a daily basis.”
With the commission’s report now in government hands, the NDP has ordered more consultations with Treaty 8 First Nations before it will make a final decision on the fate of Site C before the end of the year. The current legislative session is set to end Nov. 30.
Premier John Horgan has given a blunt assessment of the report.
“I take no comfort in saying ‘I told you so,’ but I have been talking about the challenges of proceeding with a multi-billion dollar project without any third party oversight,” Horgan told The Tyee on Thursday.
“The report speaks for itself. It demonstrates a project that’s over budget, a project that will probably continue to be over budget with a whole bunch of challenges with contracts and so on.”
However, Horgan was also careful in choosing his words, noting the commission’s damning findings won’t necessarily lead to a decision to cancel the project.
“This is a serious situation that is going to have a significant impact on everything that we do going forward,” Horgan said.
“We’re going to take the time and look at the report. We’re going to do some analysis of what the consequences would be for the treasury, for taxpayers, but also what the consequences would be for BC Hydro ratepayers.”
Site C is expected to be a hot topic of debate at the NDP party’s 2017 convention Nov. 3 to 5 in Victoria.