Excerpt from the Official Report of
DEBATES OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

(Hansard)


September 30, 2015

Debate on Motion 19 — Site C Power Project

S. Simpson: I’m pleased to spend a little time, after we’ve wasted the better part of 4½ hours on a political stunt here, this particular resolution. And it is simply that.

We know the decision has been made. The decision is made. The first major contract has been let. Morgan Environmental from Alberta has the contract, and we know that’s going ahead because you can talk to the people in Fort St. John who are looking at all of those Alberta licence plates for all those jobs that British Columbians don’t have.

For all of the phony arguments of this minister and her colleagues…. Talk about phony arguments. They don’t care. They will give it away. The Minister of Jobs says: “Send the jobs to Alberta.”

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S. Simpson: She’s happy to send them to Alberta.

What we see here is what is nothing more than cheap politics in this resolution. Now, we know cheap politics is well instilled in the DNA of Liberal cabinet ministers, so that’s just the way it is.

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S. Simpson: That’s just the way it is, Minister.

So what do we have here? The only thing that may stop this project at this point will be a court case in November that we’ll see about, with the First Nations. That will play out. Other than that, this is a deal that is done. It’s a deal that’s done, and it’s a deal that’s done at a cost that we can’t even begin to fathom — $6.6 billion in 2007; today, $9 billion.

If we look at the performance of this government…

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S. Simpson: …project after project after project, we see the costs going up 50 percent, 100 percent. This government doesn’t know how to do a project without a 50 percent or a 100 percent cost overrun.

Look at B.C. Place — 100 percent overrun. The convention centre….

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S. Simpson: Ridiculous, ridiculous overruns.

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S. Simpson: We have a project that’s $9 billion now. Will it be $10 billion, $12 billion, $13 billion, $14 billion by the time we’re done? I suppose it probably will be.

Of course, the problem here is that there has been no oversight — none at all. The B.C. Utilities Commission, the place where a project of this magnitude should have been…. This government manipulated it in every possible way and refused to allow it go there.

Do we want to understand why? It’s not hard. November 24, 2013, the Globe and Mail. What does the Minister of Energy say? “Putting Site C to a regulatory review would get in the way of the provincial government’s energy plans,” the minister said. “That would have exposed those projects to the intervener process that we have at the B.C. Utilities Commission.” We wouldn’t want that, would we? We wouldn’t want the regulatory regime, which was put in place for good reasons, to be used.

Instead, we have this manipulation by this minister, by this government, to ram this thing forward. That’s the reality that we’re talking about.

So what do we have? Instead, we have one process. We do have a process here. We have a process; it was the joint review panel. That’s probably the closest thing we got to a process. What did the joint review panel tell us? Well, let’s look at what the joint review panel told us. “Site C would seem cheap one day. But the project would be accompanied by significant environmental and social costs, and the costs would not be borne by those who benefit. The larger effects are: significant unmitigated losses to wildlife and rare plants, including losses to species under the Species at Risk Act; significant unmitigated losses to fish and fish habitat; losses of certain archaeological, historical and paleontological resources; social costs to farmers, ranchers, hunters and other users of the Peace River Valley; and forced changes to the current uses of land and water by signatories to treaty 8, other First Nations and the Métis. These losses will be borne by the people of the valley, some of whom say there is no possible compensation.”

That’s what they said, but that’s not all the joint review panel said. They said that large LNG plants, which this government suggested were part of the reason for this, and pipelines are likely to be powered by natural gas. We know they’re going to be powered by natural gas. The PDA told us that.

What else did the joint review panel say? “For a number of reasons set out in the text, the panel cannot conclude that the power of Site C is needed on the schedule presented.” That’s what the joint review panel said.

They also talked about alternatives. What did they say? “B.C. Hydro now says 700 megawatts of firm power via geothermal resources may be available at competitive prices. They are, however, forbidden by policy to develop it.” This is what B.C. Hydro says and the joint review panel says. As they say, B.C. Hydro is forbidden by policy to pursue it.

There are a number of other renewable alternatives available at costs comparable to Site C, the review panel says, but these have only been roughly costed in the environmental impact statement. As a matter of public policy, B.C. Hydro is not allowed to develop them and so has not invested much in exploration, research and engineering.

You have a government here and a minister that makes a decision, goes ahead and then closes every door for looking at any legitimate alternative or renewable. This minister and government went out of their way to ensure there were no other options. But this minister knows he’ll be long gone before the people pay the price for this.

What about the claims on jobs? What about those? Well, we know that we had a process here.

I heard the speaker before me talk about Alex Fraser being a minister in the W.A.C. Bennett government. Well, I recall reading back on the history of Mr. Bennett, who created B.C. Hydro and that. In 1963, when they dammed the Peace…. Of course, he put the Allied Hydro agreement in place — an agreement that for 50 years has built hydro largely on budget and on time, a project labour agreement that created great opportunities and great jobs for British Columbians.

The last project signed by the Allied Hydro Council — of course, closely related to the Allied Hydro agreement — probably would have been claimed to be John Hart. But that agreement gets torn up.

The government tears up the Allied Hydro agreement. The government tears up the agreement that for 50 years has been a success in this province, that for 50 years has created opportunities in this province. The ministers over there tear that agreement up. And what do we see? They tear the agreement up. They try to hardball this through with B.C. Hydro.

The building trades, of course, react to that and threaten to go to court. We now have a negotiation and a memorandum of understanding. But it’s a memorandum of understanding that, I’m told, has a weighting system that nobody knows about, a weighting system that’s supposed to guarantee jobs for British Columbians.

I would note that $9 billion, $10 billion, $11 billion, $12 billion, whatever this ends up costing — all B.C. taxpayers’ money. British Columbians should get those jobs. There are no more guarantees here than there are in the LNG agreement that we debated this summer, where there’s not a single job guarantee in there. Billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money and not a single agreement — unbelievable.

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S. Simpson: I would say to the Minister of Energy: “You should talk to the minister of jobs and economic development.” I know that she has seen the ads that the building trades are running in Fort St. John newspapers and elsewhere saying: “What happened to the deal?” She could tell you about that, Minister.

We have a situation where you have a system that works. I guess that had to get torn up because somebody had to figure out how to mollify Phil Hochstein, who’s unhappy after he messed up skills training. You took that away from him. Now you’ve given him Site C.

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S. Simpson: The 17th minister or 18th or 23rd or whatever the number is.

This is a stunt. When I go back and look at the motion, the motion talks about affordability. But the joint review panel says we can’t assess that because we don’t have enough information, and the government has excluded the ability to look at alternatives, renewables and other things. They’ve shut that door. So how we look at affordability is not there.

They said an environmental review process. The list of environmental impacts is long and difficult and about jobs. There is no guarantee here about those jobs.

I hear the communications person from B.C. Hydro saying in a quote that, well, half the jobs have gone to British Columbians. Congratulations. Half the jobs have gone to British Columbians. When we have half for British Columbians….

This is the Liberal model for success. You pay 100 percent of the bills, and you get half the benefits. That’s the Liberal approach. Talk about bunglers. They bungle, and they misrepresent things, and they get themselves elected. It’s pretty impressive how they do that. I must say, that’s pretty impressive.

This motion isn’t deserving of support because of what it is. The motion isn’t deserving of support. I heard the Minister of Energy — and we’ll hear him talk about this again — talking about leadership, I think, when he made his comments at the beginning. Well, let’s talk about strong leadership.

Strong leadership isn’t about manipulating a process to close doors so that an organization like B.C. Hydro can’t look at its alternatives. That’s not strong leadership. Strong leadership isn’t about running away from regulatory organizations like the B.C. Utilities Commission.

It’s not about closing the doors on transparency, closing the doors on evidence and saying: “I don’t care about evidence.” Well, I know that the minister will say anything to get this done. He will say anything. And that’s why most British Columbians aren’t much concerned about what the minister says, because it’s anything that comes out of his mouth.

What strong leadership is about…. If this minister wanted to demonstrate some kind of strong leadership, it’s about having the courage of your convictions to send this project to the Utilities Commission. It’s the courage of your convictions to allow a real analysis of this project, a real assessment, to tell B.C. Hydro to go look at renewables, to tell them to go out and look at Revelstoke 6, to look at other options and come back with a plan that puts British Columbians first instead of Liberals, their political agenda and their friends. That’s what we’re doing today.

This motion is just a commentary on the dismal situation across the bench from us. It’s a commentary on a government that is desperate. LNG went in the ditch in a big way, so they need a megaproject. Who cares what happens to British Columbians? Who cares about taxpayers? “Let’s throw this one up and see if it sticks, because we need a megaproject for the Premier.” That’s what we’ve got here.

It’s just bad politics, bad science, bad programs, bad policy. But it comes from a bad government, so who would expect anything else?

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