Oct. 15, 2020

Why Horgan called the election: Site C tipped the scales

Now we know why Premier John Horgan called the election. Of course, he wanted to get out from under the Green Party and was afraid of where the China pandemic would go, but what tipped the scales was the Site C Hydro Project. It is more and more a boondoggle.

I am from Newfoundland and being a smaller place and happenings all over the Province are much in view everywhere. BC is different, larger geographically and more populated. Many people in the Lower Mainland would be unaware of the large tens of billions of dollars LNG Plant being built in Kitimat. If that was in Newfoundland that would be known by all. The Province’s population is less than Surrey’s population. Similarly, the Site C multi-billion-dollar project is not well known in the southern part of the Province. Sadly. 

This is a BC Hydro Project. In other words, a Government of BC project. And it is in trouble, big trouble! 

If you read a BC Hydro Document of 2014 you will find that this Site C Project was being planned in 2010 at $7.9 billion. Then in 2014 it was increased to $8.335 billion by the experts, BC Hydro said, with 30 and 40 years of experience in Hydro projects. Then three years ago after the NDP formed government they approved the Liberal project after doing a review of it, the project now being well under way. There were many who said to shelve it and there was a UBC study questioning the whole thing. Even the joint Federal Provincial Joint Environmental Review thought a review of costs was necessary.

The project continued merrily on its way. But gradually rumours were circulating about costs and technical problems.

In August, 2020 Vancouver Sun’s Vaughn Palmer wrote a scathing review of the project pointing out serious technical problems and providing a revised cost of $10.7 billion. He said then: "So, to recap, there’s a stability problem under the foundations for the powerhouse, the spillways and the dam itself and nobody knows what it will take or how much it will cost to fix. The government is paying the main contractor hundreds of millions extra to stay on schedule. Contingency funds are almost gone. And there’s no telling when the project will be finished or at what cost." 

He again wrote an article in September right after the election was called highlighting big problems and that three former BC Government senior public servants had asked for a suspension of the project. 

We have learned from Palmer that the government and Hydro knew about the extra problems back in December, 2019 and January, 2020 but the public did not know until Hydro was forced to submit its progress on the project to the BC Utilities Board in July.

Premier Horgan and Hydro had hidden the problems with the project from the taxpayers for seven months. I suppose the Premier could say he did not know but how likely is it that a $10 billion project that was in serious trouble operated under a BC Government crown corporation would not be a matter for information for the premier? As a former premier I would say very likely that the premier would be informed. 

The premier has appointed Peter Millburn,  a former deputy minister, former special adviser on Site C to inform the government on the project. This being done only after the project information was provided to the BC Utilities Commission. 

Of course, we won’t get Milbur‘s report until after the election. At least there is no indication that it will be forthcoming before October 24. 

So Horgan, with the Greens on his heels (given the Site C was now back in view), a pandemic stubbornly persisting, a favourable poll number – and a looming scandal on Site  – especially given the hidden information and an almost certain Site C negative report from Milburn of more construction and much higher costs – prestoehe really has no choice but break the written deal with Greens and go for it. 

The most tragic part of all this is that all three parties have blood on their hands: the Liberals who started the project, the NDP who continued it and muddied the watersby withholding information as the project got in more trouble, and the Greens who signed a deal with the NDP to allow them to govern without any conditions in that agreement relating to the Site C Project progress or development in the full knowledge this was a very troubled project then and for many years before that time and additionally did not raise the issue while supporting the Government. 

Finally, with such problems looming, a completely outside independent expert, I say experts, should be brought in to investigate, not someone, however competent, who has already been involved in the project.