Environmental groups denounced Premier John Horgan as he announced Monday the province would continue to build the Site C dam.
The Wilderness Committee told Black Press they were “massively disappointed” with what they called the NDP’s “flip-flopping” on the now-$10.7-billion northern B.C. megaproject.
“We can only come to the conclusion that Horgan was lobbied extensively by some of the construction unions,” said national campaign director Joe Foy.
According to the organization, the Site C dam could flood 83 kilometres of the Peace River from near Fort St. John upstream to Hudson’s Hope, contaminating fish stocks, and remove farmland from the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Foy took issue with the province’s claim that it would have cost $4 billion to halt the project, as well as Horgan’s stance that that money could not be paid back over time.
“We believe that is grossly overestimated,” he said. “All that dam can do, unlike the hole in the ground which just sits there, is lose us hundreds of millions of dollars every year it operates.”
He said the NDP’s decision could change B.C.’s political landscape as NDP voters who may feel betrayed move away from the party. Horgan had campaigned earlier this year on a promise to review, not kill, the dam, but he had criticized the BC Liberals’ approach to the project in the past.
More lawsuits expected
Court challenges, Foy said, are likely coming both from environmental and First Nations groups.
“I think rolling over First Nations in this way is unacceptable,” he said. “I think we will begin to see the effects of protests.”
Amnesty International called Horgan’s decision “a blatant betrayal of his government’s commitments to uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples.”
The group called foul on the province’s claim that it was too late to stop the project and said the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations will continue their legal efforts.
‘We are relieved’
Meanwhile, the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association celebrated the thousands of jobs they believe will be kept and created by continuing work on Site C.
Spokesperson Jordan Bateman said all the extra time the NDP government took to have the dam reviewed was unnecessary, only to have Horgan ultimately go forward.
Bateman said he also doesn’t buy the province’s new $10.7-billion estimated price tag. When it was approved by the then-Liberal government in 2014, the project was estimated at $8.8 billion.
“You have one analysis done in six weeks that says it could run over budget,” he said. “Frankly, the overruns that the NDP are planning for here are going to be caused by the NDP.”