(1) 250.472.8528
andrew.weaver.mla@leg.bc.ca

Extremely disheartening decision by BC NDP to proceed with fiscally reckless Site C project

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.


Media Release


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.”

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Media contact
Sarah Miller, Acting Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | sarah.miller@leg.bc.ca

Making the case for cancelling Site C in an open letter to government

Over the last few weeks Sonia Furstenau, Adam Olsen and I have tried to provide as much evidence as possible to make the case for cancelling the fiscally-reckless Site C megaproject. In fact, since I first raised the fiscal folly of moving forward with Site C in 2013, the case has become much, much stronger culminating in the British Columbia Utilities Commission report released on November 1, 2017.

In question period I’ve contrasted the escalating costs of Site C to the diminishing costs of renewables and noted the parallels with the controversial Muskrat Falls megaproject in Newfoundland and Labrador. I’ve pointed out that Site C was approved as a ratepayer funded subsidy to a non existent LNG industry. I’ve asked why the Columbia River Entitlement and distributed renewable projects have not been explored. And my BC Green colleagues have asked many more questions as well.

With the rising of the legislature last Thursday and ahead of an imminent decision regarding the fate of Site C, my caucus colleagues and I felt it was important to summarize our case against the project in an open letter that we sent to Premier Horgan. Below I reproduce a text of that letter.


Text of Open Letter


December 1, 2017
Premier John Horgan
Office of the Premier
Parliament Buildings, B.C. Legislature
Victoria, B.C.
V8V 1X4

cc: Hon. Michelle Mungall
Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources
Dear Premier Horgan,

As we near cabinet’s decision on Site C, we write to you today to urge you to stop construction of the Site C dam.

Our Confidence and Supply Agreement committed government to sending Site C to the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC), BC’s independent regulatory agency, for an independent review of the project. In undertaking this review, the BCUC marshalled significant evidence and undertook an analysis of the implications of pursuing completion, suspension, and termination scenarios; the implications for ratepayers of different scenarios; and the potential for a portfolio of alternative sources of energy to meet demand.

The resulting report was comprehensive and provided a strong, evidence-based rationale for cancelling Site C. This rationale is founded in a number of key findings presented in the report, including:

  1. Site C is already over budget, and is beset by considerable risks of further costly overruns and delays;
  2. An alternative portfolio can meet future demand requirements, at the same or lower prices than Site C.

The BC Green Caucus believes that the findings of the report more than make the case that the best course of action for government is to cancel the project, remediate the land and begin the work of developing a 21st century energy system based on options presented in the alternative portfolio.

This argument is laid out in greater detail below.

Costs and risks of Site C

The estimated cost of Site C has escalated throughout its lifespan. Just last month, when the river diversion deadline was missed, the cost increased again from $8.3 to $8.9 billion, accompanying a year-long delay to the construction schedule.

It was therefore unsurprising to see the BCUC Panel determine that Site C will be behind schedule and substantially over budget. In the BCUC Panel’s words, “given the nature of this type of project and what has occurred to date, total costs for the project may be in excess of $10 billion and there are significant risks that could lead to further budget overruns”. The Panel found that these remaining risks include unresolved tension cracks and disputes with contractors. As such, the Panel found that it is unlikely that Site C will be completed on schedule by 2024, and even that construction costs could escalate even further beyond $10 billion.

This cost escalation is significant, and will have substantial impacts on British Columbia ratepayers. Given that we are only 2 years into what is supposed to be a 9-year construction project, we are gravely concerned about the impact on British Columbians of further expected delays and cost overruns.

As cabinet makes its decision, we hope they will also heed the lessons learned from another large-scale dam under construction, Muskrat Falls, in Newfoundland and Labrador. When the Muskrat Falls Project was sanctioned, it was estimated to cost $6.2 billion plus financing. The costs have since ballooned to more than $12 billion. The impact of this cost increase on rates in Newfoundland is profound. Nalcor Hydro now estimates that costs from the Muskrat Falls dam will result in rates almost doubling.

The lessons from this project are significant and relevant. Just last week the Newfoundland and Labrador government initiated a public inquiry into what happened with Muskrat Falls. Richard LeBlanc, the provincial Supreme Court judge leading the independent inquiry, has said “while we cannot undo the past we can learn from it”. While it may have been too late for their government to cancel their project, it is not too late for BC. We hope this government heeds his words and chooses a different path.

The potential of alternatives to meet demand

As part of its review, the BCUC was also mandated to analyze the ability of an alternative portfolio of commercially feasible projects and demand-side initiatives to provide similar energy benefits to Site C, including their potential to meet demand and their costs to ratepayers.

The Panel found that not only could an alternative portfolio of conservation, wind energy, and geothermal energy meet demand and provide similar benefits to ratepayers as Site C, but that it could do so with an equal or lower unit energy cost.

In addition to recognizing the current viability of alternative energy in BC, the Panel found that disruptive trends in technology pose one of the most significant risks to continuing with Site C. Evidence from around the world substantiates the Panel’s warning about technological trends. Prices for wind, solar, and

geothermal energy have plummeted year by year. The pace and scope of technological advance have exceeded even the most optimistic predictions.

Instead of locking ourselves into the path of the Site C Dam, we should seize this opportunity to build clean, distributed power that puts us on the cutting edge of innovation, and provides jobs and benefits to local communities.

In addition, though beyond the scope of the BCUC review, it is critically important that government also consider the impacts that this project has on First Nations, particularly in light of our collective commitment to implementing UNDRIP. Government must also consider the project’s impact on the environment of the Peace River valley. Through pursuing an alternative energy portfolio instead of Site C, BC can partner with First Nations, industry and local communities to build clean, distributed power across BC. These alternatives will employ more people than Site C and provide local jobs and benefits to local communities.

In the face of these developments, it would be irresponsible for government to continue down the path of Site C. We do not require Site C to meet our future energy needs – alternative sources of energy are more than able to meet demand, and they will enable us to adapt to changing needs, as they provide flexible sources of energy. In contrast, Site C locks us into an energy future that could impose significant burdens on future ratepayers, and we would be forced to sell any surplus power at a loss.

Final considerations

Laid out in front of this government is a choice. The previous government chose to forgo evidence and due diligence, and pushed forward irresponsibly with a project that it is clear should never have been started. What the BCUC report tells us is that it is not too late to correct this mistake.

However, the choice facing your government is not simply about which option will save ratepayers the most money. It’s a choice about what type of province we want to build. All around the world jurisdictions are embracing a modern, 21st century approach to energy policy. Pursuing this future would see the creation of a distributed, integrated power grid where the economic and employment benefits are shared by communities throughout the province.

Site C puts this future further out of reach, doubling down on the energy projects of the last century and undermining our ability to embrace the future.

We hope, as cabinet considers this decision, that they properly weigh this information contained within the BCUC report. Your government made the right decision in agreeing to commission an independent review before we crossed the point of no return. You need now to be guided by the evidence that this report puts forward.

This government has an opportunity to undo the mistakes of the last administration and chart a new, modern path for energy policy in BC. We hope you will seize this opportunity.

 

Sincerely,

Andrew Weaver
Leader, B.C. Green Party
MLA, Oak Bay-Gordon head

Sonia Furstenau
MLA, Cowichan Valley

Adam Olsen
MLA, Saanich North & the Islands

The Letter


Media Release


B.C. Greens make the case for cancelling Site C in open letter to government
For immediate release
December 1, 2017

VICTORIA, B.C. – B.C. Green MLAs Andrew Weaver, Sonia Furstenau and Adam Olsen sent an open letter today to Premier Horgan and Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Michelle Mungall making the case for cancelling Site C.

The B.C. Greens have been opposed to Site C since costs begun to escalate well past its initial budget, while the global cost of alternative energy has continued to fall.

The letter is attached.

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Media contact
Sarah Miller, Acting Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | sarah.miller@leg.bc.ca

Contrasting the escalating costs of Site C to the diminishing costs of renewables

Today in the legislature I rose in Question Period to ask the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources about the escalating costs of Site C relative to the diminishing costs of renewables.

In the days ahead, the BC cabinet will make a decision on whether or not to proceed with the construction of Site C.  It’s critical that cabinet make its decision based on the best available evidence. It’s clear to me that Site C is about to emerge as BC’s very own Muskrat Falls. A public inquiry in Newfoundland and Labrador will begin this January to determine why that hydro megaproject is so many billions of dollars over budget and so far behind schedule. It will also examine why the project was exempt from oversight by the Public Utilities Board much as the Site C project was approved without oversight from the British Columbia Utilities Commission.

Below I reproduce the video and text of the exchange. It is clear to me that the BC Liberals were feeling very uncomfortable with the line of questioning as their heckling was so loud and ongoing that I had to stop several times.


Video of Exchange



Question


A. Weaver: I see the members on the opposite side here are somewhat troubled about question period and are a little feisty today.

I’d like to take us back, hon. Speaker. I’d like to take us back to the previous decade, when Site C was advanced to stage 3 of the approval process. Its price tag then was somewhere between $5 billion and $6.6 billion. Let’s now fast-forward to 2011. The price tag now was $7.9 billion. Two years later, now in 2013, the price tag was $8.3 billion. Then the price tag grew to $8.9 billion, accompanying a year-long delay in the construction schedule.

Now the B.C. Utilities Commission says this directly: “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.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

A. Weaver: My question through you, hon. Speaker — if I’m allowed to actually ask it over the heckling from opposite — is this. It’s to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. Will the minister stop the Site C project…?

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

The question, please.

A. Weaver: I’ll try again.

Will the minister stop Site C before it gets any worse and protect British Columbians from a project that already shows signs of having costs that will spiral completely out of control?


Answer


Hon. M. Mungall: Thank you to the member for the question. I find the question very interesting because I think it highlights exactly why this project should have gone to the B.C. Utilities Commission right from the very get-go. The fact that the official opposition, when they were in government, chose not to do that — I’ve said it before, and let me say it again — was the wrong choice.

This government has righted that wrong. We have finally gone to the B.C. Utilities Commission, and we were able to get answers to the questions that British Columbians had, questions that I’m sure that the Leader of the Third Party had as well. This government is taking all of that information into consideration as we deliberate on this very important issue for British Columbians, and we’ll be working and making a decision in the best interests of British Columbians.


Supplementary Question


A. Weaver: Thank you to the minister for the response. In contrast to the grim picture of ballooning Site C construction costs, let’s now take a look at the renewable energy sector. Wind, solar and geothermal power have become cheaper and scaled up faster than anyone predicted. The cost of wind power has decreased by 90 percent since the 1980s. In the last eight years alone….

Interjections.

A. Weaver: I know that members opposite don’t like to hear data, but if you could let me actually get it through, we’d be actually all benefiting from this.

In the last eight years alone, costs for wind power declined by 66 percent. And the costs are predicted to continue to fall. Bloomberg, for example, predicts that onshore wind costs will fall by 47 percent by 2040 and offshore costs will fall by 71 percent.

Now I get that they’re feisty opposite, hon. Speaker, because they don’t like the real data. They’re just living in an ideological world of mysterious data.

Solar energy tells a similar story.

Mr. Speaker: Member, the question, please.

A. Weaver: Thanks. If I could actually ask the question….

Solar energy tells a similar story. Costs have decreased by 68 percent since 2009, and they’re projected to decrease by a further 27 percent in the next five years. We have a window of opportunity now to harness renewables and build power that puts us on the cutting edge of innovation and provides local jobs and benefits.

Mr. Speaker: Member, the question please.

A. Weaver: My question — if I can get it above this background of raucous Liberal members — to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, is this: are you prepared to forgo this generational opportunity to harness renewables by continuing in the B.C. Liberal footsteps with building a doomed megaproject?


Answer


Hon. M. Mungall: It’s clear that members opposite sure are feisty today. I’m glad that the member did get his question in.

He will note that part of my mandate letter is to build that road map into the future in terms of B.C.’s energy policy, looking specifically at our opportunities — our tremendous opportunities — at renewables.

But for today, we have to address this issue of Site C. No decision has been made, but we are in the decision-making process, and we take it very seriously. This is a very important decision for British Columbians well into the future, and that’s why we have ensured that we’re doing our due diligence by starting with the B.C. Utilities Commission.

We’re looking at the information that they brought forward as well as the incredible amount of information that has come out over the years about Site C, and we will be making a decision that works for British Columbians today and into future generations.


Site C and LNG in BC: Standing up for the ratepayer

Today in the Legislature I rose in Question Period to question the Minister of Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources about the need for Site C in light of a nonexistent LNG industry. I further questioned whether or not she would defend the interests of British Columbians and ensure a fair price for our natural gas assets by evoking a cancellation provision with the Progress Energy royalty agreement (as Petronas has not made a positive final investment decision).

In addition, in April, 2015 when Bill 23, The Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act was introduced by the BC Liberals, the BC NDP and I spoke out about profoundly troubling changes to the way Royalty Agreements are managed under the Petroleum and Natural Gas Act. Under these changes, the Minister was granted the power to enter into secret agreements with oil and gas companies without the approval of Cabinet. I felt it was important important to see whether the Minister would agree to not undertake such agreements.

Below I reproduce the video and text of the exchange as well as a copy of our accompanying press release.


Video of Exchange



Question


A. Weaver: I think I’m living in some kind of a fantasy world here in question period today. It’s quite remarkable.

To entice LNG projects to British Columbia in 2014, the previous government promised proponents electricity rates of 8.3 cents per kilowatt hour, but that wasn’t good enough. So two years later, they dropped the rate to 5.4 cents per kilowatt hour.

Now, we know the actual cost of power from Site C, if the government continues with this project. It will be over ten cents a kilowatt hour, while residential customers today are paying 8.6 cents at tier 1 and 12.9 cents per kilowatt hour at tier 2.

Not only are residential customers paying nearly twice what hypothetical LNG companies would pay, they’re also financing Site C to provide electricity to a nonexistent industry through a business model that will lose about five cents for every kilowatt hour of energy produced. That’s B.C. Liberal economics for you. Fortunately, for the members of that party, they have one leadership candidate who hasn’t run on their abysmal economic record.

My question to the Minister of Energy, Mines…

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members, we shall hear the question, please.

A. Weaver: My question to the Minister of Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources is this. Will government admit that the only reason to continue with the construction of Site C is to provide ratepayer-subsidized power to a nonexistent LNG industry?


Answer


Hon. M. Mungall: Thank you to the member for the question. He is aware of the process that is undergoing right now. We’ve just completed the B.C. Utilities Commission review of Site C. That report was delivered just a week ago, and this government has announced that we are now moving into our analysis, and then we’ll be doing proper deliberations.

Next week myself and the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation are actually going to be formally consulting with Indigenous communities and First Nations leaders who are directly impacted by Site C. Saying anything at present about future decision-making would likely prejudge that, and I’m just not going to be doing that.


Supplementary Question


A. Weaver: The previous government did everything industry asked them to make their LNG dreams a reality. “Jump.” “How high? How often? Where to? How many times?” They wanted to deliver unicorns to each and every one of our backyards, and when they couldn’t squeeze water from a stone, they tried desperately to squeeze even harder.

They even changed the natural gas royalty legislation so that the minister could negotiate sweetheart deals in secret. They signed a deal with Progress Energy.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

A. Weaver: They signed a deal with Progress Energy and its partners that would have locked in low royalty rates for years and cost B.C. millions. But that contract had an escape valve. One of its conditions was a positive final investment on Pacific Northwest LNG by June of 2017. Yet Petronas decided to kill the project.

My question to the Minister of Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources is this. When will the government stand up for the people of B.C., demand a fair price for our natural gas assets and terminate the long-term royalty agreement with Progress Energy? And will the minister confirm, for the record, that this government will not negotiate royalty agreements in secret with any other gas companies?


Answer


Hon. M. Mungall: I think there’s no doubt that anybody on this side of the House would agree with the member that the previous government made large promises and absolutely failed to deliver on those promises. I think we’ve canvassed a few of those: the jobs with LNG, the LNG prosperity fund, the “Debt-free B.C.” Families first, as well.

That being said, moving forward, we have committed to work with industry but also to make sure that our regulatory oversight bodies are doing their due diligence, as well, and that they have the resources to do so. On this side of the House, we want to make sure that government is working for all British Columbians and that we’re all together building a better B.C.


Media Release


November 8, 2017
For immediate release
Site C, Hydro finances demonstrate need to reverse trend of failed Liberal economic management: Weaver

VICTORIA, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, is calling for an overhaul of BC’s approach to the energy file. Weaver says that the politicization of energy has got in the way of sound fiscal management and evidence-based policies that would protect ratepayers and allow BC to become a leader in alternative energy.

“Energy has been treated like a political tool in this province, depriving British Columbians of the leadership and sound fiscal management they deserve from their government,” said Weaver.

“Today, the NDP announced that they are freezing Hydro rates. B.C. Hydro is in a dire financial position due to the utter failure of the B.C. Liberals to responsibly manage our finances. They raided B.C. Hydro of more than half a billion dollars in dividends last year alone. ICBC is facing a similar financial mess for the same reason.

“Since the Liberals used LNG as a Hail Mary pass to clinch the 2013 election, they have been hell-bent on developing an industry that was never going to materialize. Due to Liberal enticements to LNG companies, British Columbians pay nearly twice as much as hypothetical LNG companies for their Hydro.

“Site C is yet another piece of this disturbing puzzle – it is billions of dollars over budget and was pushed through without proper oversight by BCUC to satisfy the LNG pipedream. BCUC, an independent body whose purpose is to protect ratepayers, was blocked from doing its job because of the Liberals’ blind pursuit to get to yes at any cost.

“The NDP is at a crossroads. They can continue down this path of reckless Liberal fiscal management, or they can keep their promise to be better. While I’m glad they’re reviewing BC Hydro, there are concrete steps they can take to reverse the trend of energy policy being used as a political tool. They can and should cancel the Long Term Royalty Agreement with Progress Energy, who, by the way, is responsible for the two largest unregulated dams in North Eastern BC. They can, and should stop the pilfering of BC Hydro by requiring dividends that, if not stopped, will amount to $2.8 billion by 2020.

“We cannot keep making political decisions while saddling future generations with debt. If the NDP truly want to make life more affordable, freezing hydro rates without developing an energy strategy – which will simply saddle our children with these costs – is not the solution. We have a generational opportunity to use this minority government to chart a new path for BC, one that takes us away from the BC Liberals fiscal mismanagement. It will require us to think big and to take bold action, but that is exactly what British Columbians deserve from their leaders.”

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Media contact
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | jillian.oliver@leg.bc.ca

Clean energy, the Columbia River Treaty Entitlement & the folly of proceeding with Site C

Yesterday during budget estimate debates I took the opportunity to question the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources on a number of topics involving clean energy projects, the Columbia River Treaty Entitlement and the folly of proceeding with Site C.

The line of questioning was designed to get the Minister to recognize that continuing to construct Site C is a fiscally reckless way forward. My questioning culminated with me asking the Minister directly:

Why are you not making a decision today to terminate Site C?

I was not very impressed with the responses I received.


Video of Exchange



Video of Exchange


A. Weaver: I have a series of very short questions on the Columbia River entitlement. My first question is: how much power is British Columbia entitled to under the Columbia River entitlement?

Hon. M. Mungall: The Columbia River treaty is under the purview of the Minister for Children and Family Development. It’s not under this ministry, unfortunately.

A. Weaver: This line of questioning is very germane to the topic at hand. I would suggest the minister should be able to answer this question, because the amount of power that British Columbia is able to get under the Columbia River entitlement is exactly the same, almost precisely the same as the amount that Site C would provide.

My question, then, to the minister is: how much is British Columbia getting, on average, from electricity sold to the U.S. spot market that could otherwise come to B.C. under the Columbia River entitlement?

Hon. M. Mungall: It’s $125 million at current market prices.

A. Weaver: What does that translate to in terms of per kilowatt hour or per megawatt hour, in terms of costs, that is being sold?

I didn’t mean this question to take so long. It was almost a rhetorical question, because the answer is about $40 per megawatt hour, and that calculation is done very, very quickly.

The reason why I wanted to ask that question is I would have hoped that the minister would be on top of this file. Because $40 per megawatt hour is less than half what the projected future cost…. The revenues being brought to the province are $127 million a year. Why is B.C. Hydro not considering power available under the Columbia River entitlement to meet this hypothetical demand in either the low or medium forecast?

Hon. M. Mungall: Sorry I was taking so long. There’s no need to be antagonistic. I was just trying to get some further information to provide to the member in reference to his question. He doesn’t want that, so okay.

The reason why B.C. Hydro isn’t looking at the Columbia River entitlement is partly that the Columbia River treaty is up for renegotiation. I would hope the member would know that. As a Columbia Basin resident, it’s one of the things that we’ve been working on since well before 2014, the first opportunity to give notice for renegotiation because the treaty comes to an end at 2024. It’s one of the reasons we’re not able to ensure that it’s with any certainty.

I see the member for Kootenay East. He will know this as well. Any Kootenay MLA will know this and know what’s going on presently with the Columbia River treaty.

A. Weaver: Frankly, I find that answer quite remarkable. Of course I’m aware about the Columbia River treaty, and Site C is not to be built any time before 2024…. I mean, it will be 2021 before that’s built. The reality is that there is power available today, firm power to the amount available for Site C for any interim costs.

My follow-up question to the minister is this. Why is it that we have about 170 megawatts — or 117, I believe it is — in the standing offer program that’s gone through and there’s no call for power? Why is it that B.C. Hydro did not put a call out for power at ten cents a kilowatt hour and take, accepting those applications in the standing offer program…? Because we know that the price of Site C, as noticed by the BCUC and the ongoing tension cracks that we’re seeing, is going to come in higher than that. Why was no call for power at ten cents per kilowatt hour issued?

Hon. M. Mungall: First, the standing offer program and calls for power were different types of programs.

The call for power — B.C. Hydro did calls for power in 2003, 2006, 2008. After the last one, the recommendation to the previous government was to go forward with Site C rather than another call for power. Their rationale, at the time, was that B.C. needed more firm power, not more intermittent power and that intermittent power was being generated at a higher cost than what B.C. Hydro felt they could do in terms of constructing Site C.

That’s the reason why there hasn’t been a call for power since then. The member will note this government took action in terms of bringing Site C to the B.C. Utilities Commission, as that decision to move forward without a review by the B.C. Utilities Commission was done by the previous government, not ours.

A. Weaver: I correct my previous statement. There are 137 megawatts in the standing offer program ready to go, including 15 megawatts of an amazing solar facility by Rocky Mountain Solar in the Cranbrook area ready to go — on private land, with support of the local community, transmission lines through the property, ready to go, scalable to 50 megawatts. Give them a price. They’ll deliver. We have examples of pump storage on Vancouver Island and in the Kootenays as well, ready to go, but again, B.C. Hydro is not bringing them into the fold.

So my question to the minister is this. In light of the fact that we have the BCUC, why are you not making a decision today to terminate Site C? For four years now, the B.C. Greens have pointed out the fiscal folly of moving down this path solely to deliver to below-market contracts that were signed with LNG proponents that have left British Columbia. Why, based on all the evidence, are we kicking the can down the road until December when a decision could have been made in May, it could have been made in June, it could have been made in September, and it could be made today?

Hon. M. Mungall: I just wanted to ask my staff a quick question. The member brought up pump storage, and I interpreted that to mean pump storage that is active in the Kootenays, and that was something I wasn’t aware of going on. The reason why I wasn’t aware of it is because it’s actually not taking place in the Kootenays. There may be proposals that are currently being developed by some entrepreneurial individuals, but in terms of it actually existing right now, it doesn’t. So I was just curious about that.

To answer the member’s question about why a decision isn’t being made today, why a decision wasn’t being made in May or in June. I think looking back in terms of what has happened over the summer…. The member was very active in it, so I think he knows the answer to those particular timelines.

In terms of today, well, we’ve been very clear with our process. We’ve sent things to the B.C. Utilities Commission, as we committed to the electorate that we would do, as we committed that we would do in our supply agreement with the member and other members of the Green Party. That process has now finalized in terms of the BCUC’s report on November 1. And as we’ve said, to answer the member’s question, we have to do our due diligence. We have to provide appropriate analysis of the B.C. Utilities Commission report. We have to do that due diligence, and we have to take the time appropriate to do so, and so we are doing that.

That being said, we also recognize that there is a lot of uncertainty for people. I mean, I can absolutely empathize with people in the north. I know that members opposite in the B.C. Liberal caucus are representing their interests very well in terms of wanting to make sure that a decision is done in a timely manner, and that’s why we’ve committed to doing that by the end of this calendar year.