Today the BC NDP announced that they would proceed with the construction of Site C. Their justification for moving forward is distracting, irrelevant and unacceptable. Ultimately, the BC NDP made a choice. They chose to eliminate the tolls on the Port Mann and Gold Ears bridges instead of cancelling Site C.
Back in August I pointed out how wrong it was to eliminate the tolls on these bridges. One of the key reasons was that the outstanding debt of $4.7 billion (Port Mann – $3.6 billion; Golden Ears – is $1.1 billion) would have to be moved from self-supporting debt to taxpayer-supported debt. Increasing taxpayer supported debt is worrying. The Province’s borrowing rates are largely determined by our credit rating, overall taxpayer supported debt load and the ratio of provincial revenue to provincial debt. Increasing this debt load risks the potential of downgrading our credit rating which in term would increase borrowing rates on the entire provincial debt. Back in August, the BC NDP simply announced that they would eliminate tolls without checking with credit rating agencies and without concern for the rising provincial debt. It turns out that there was room to increase debt by $4 billion without triggering a downgrade.
Yet today, they evoke concerns about increasing provincial debt as the reason why Site C must move forward. Had they not so crassly eliminated the tolls in a desperate attempt to grab votes, Site C could have been cancelled today.
What’s even worse is that today the BC NDP announced that the cost of Site C has now risen to $10.7 billion. Back in 2010 when Site C was advanced to stage 3 of the approval process, its price tag was somewhere between $5 billion and $6.6 billion. In 2011 the price tag increased to $7.9 billion. Two years later it was $8.3 billion and then this past year the price tag grew to $8.9 billion, accompanying a year-long delay in the construction schedule. The BCUC report published on November 1 concluded that the costs for Site C woulld be $10 billion. In fact, the B.C. Utilities Commission said this: “Given the nature of this type of project and what has occurred to date, total cost for the project may be in excess of $10 billion, and there are significant risks that could lead to further budget overruns.” The cost, they found, could end up being $12 billion — and this only two years into a nine-year project.
I have been pointing out the fiscal folly of building Site C since October 2013 and I’ve documented the many, many interventions I’ve made on the subject on this site. Our efforts culminated in us sending a letter to the BC Government last week outlining the case against Site C.
I know that there are many, many British Columbians who are devastated by today’s decision. What bothers me more than anything is that I know of quite a number of NDP MLAs who campaigned on stopping Site C. For example, the agriculture minister, Lana Popham, earlier this year told a Victoria audience:
“we would send this to the BCUC immediately, we would speed up the BCUC process, make it sixty days, and we would have that decision. There is no way that this project would pass.”
“in my view, we’re nine seats away from being able to stop Site C.
Michelle Mungall, the Minister for Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources told a group of Site C protesters that her government would stop Site C and implement their Power BC plan instead. John Horgan, our premier proudly held up a “Site C sucks” sign when he visited the Peace Valley prior to the last election.
When in opposition, George Heyman (now the minister of environment) was noted as saying “the dam project is wrong on every count because of its negative impact on agriculture, the environment, First Nations, clean energy commitments, economics, and the promise of jobs”. Many other NDP MLAs have spoken out against Site C or attended the annual Paddle for the Peace in celebration of the beautiful Peace Valley and in opposition to Site C.
Below I reproduce the press release we issued following the BC NDP announcement.
Andrew Weaver responds to Government’s decision to continue with Site C
For immediate release
December 11th, 2017
VICTORIA, B.C. – Today Andrew Weaver responded to the NDP government’s decision to proceed with the construction of Site C.
“Our caucus is extremely disheartened by this decision. It is fiscally reckless to continue with Site C and my colleagues and I did everything we could to make this clear to the government.
“This government promised to be better than the B.C. Liberals. On this issue, the NDP government’s approach has turned out to be no different whatsoever.
“Since the beginning I have been concerned this would end up being a political decision. Today’s announcement reflects a sad reality for B.C., and British Columbians deserve better. They deserve a vision grounded in bold ideas that will enable our province to be a leader in the 21st century economy, not more empty campaign promises and political calculation.
“The government’s argument that cancelling Site C is too risky due to debt is incredibly cynical. This is a question of priorities. They had no problem adding billions onto the public debt to cancel the tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges, transferring those costs to people outside of the Lower Mainland to pick up votes in a couple of swing ridings.
“Today, Site C is no longer simply a B.C. Liberal boondoggle – it has now become the B.C. NDP’s project. They are accountable to British Columbians for the impact this project will have on our future.
“We have seen what is happening to ratepayers in Newfoundland because of Muskrat Falls, a similar project, where rates are set to almost double. I am deeply concerned that similar impacts are now in store for B.C. ratepayers.
“The lost economic opportunities from continuing with Site C are profound. Our caucus has met with dozens of local governments, First Nations and B.C. companies with viable alternative energy projects. As countries across the world embrace small scale distributed renewable energy, this decision keeps B.C. locked in the past and risks foregoing enormous opportunities.”
Sarah Miller, Acting Press Secretary
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