Muskrat Falls fiasco provides example for British Columbians of potential future of Site C & why Premier Clark must send project to BC Utilities Commission independent review.

wicked

It always freaks people out when I say I’m fiscally conservative. The term evokes images of Harper for most Canadians and the terms slice and dice comes to mind with references to budgets. But the truth is when I say it I don’t mean conservative as in the party, I mean I think it’s important to be really careful and cautious when spending public funds in government. Government needs to make sure all best practices are followed and every bit of due diligence is done.

When it comes to mega projects, the province of BC shows little restraint. While claims of on time and on budget are often heard, what they forget to mention is that along the way, the budget was actually increased and the completion dates  were changed… ;) So, yes, technically on time and budget…but not really.

Last week I talked about Muskrat Falls in a blog post detailing Clarks vow to get Site C past the point of no return – an ominous statement considering the lack of due diligence by the BC government on this project. 

Today, a compelling column on Newfoundlands equally contentious dam project, the one that government commissioned an independent review on in the middle of construction because of escalating costs and other issues -(detailed in the link above.) http://www.thetelegram.com/Opinion/Columnists/2016-02-08/article-4427462/It&rsquos-official:-Muskrat-Falls-is-a-millstone/1

I guess they were just wrong.
That’s the very best face you can put on it.
For years, the former provincial government argued we could have our fiscal cake and eat it, too: a Crown corporation could borrow billions of dollars with the government as a backstop, and the red ink would never show up on our balance sheet.
The government’s position was definite: no one would consider the money borrowed to build Muskrat Falls to be part of the province’s debt, because the project would someday produce revenue.

The argument continued: while we might borrow billions for the project, its asset value was worth the same amount as the borrowings. So, presto! No one in their right minds would consider it debt.

(I’ve said before that this is convoluted logic: if you buy a house for $300,000 and mortgage the whole thing, you can’t simply say you’re debt-free because your $300,000 house is an asset. You still have to pay the mortgage and the interest. But apparently that’s not the way provincial math worked.)

“Muskrat Falls will not increase our net debt by one cent. … We will have to borrow on one side (of the ledger) but we will have our asset on the other side,” then-finance minister Tom Marshall said on radio in 2012.

It’s a message repeated when the province brought down its mid-year financial statement in 2012: “Muskrat Falls is a project that will not impact net debt by a single dollar while providing us with an affordable, reliable, environmentally friendly source of electricity for generations to come,” Marshall said.

So is it on our balance sheet, or not?

Last week, the answer came in from bond rating agency Standard & Poors.

In this year of massive debts due to oil price declines, the rating agency — while lowering the province’s credit rating and potentially increasing the interest rates we’ll have to pay for future borrowing — still spent a fair bit of time discussing the “not-a-debt” fiscal liability that is Muskrat Falls.

“We view Newfoundland’s contingent liabilities as high. The province’s primary contingent risk relates to its wholly owned local energy provider, Nalcor Energy, a holding company that owns Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro (NLH). Newfoundland has guaranteed C$1.1 billion of NLH’s debt, which represented an estimated 17 per cent of the province’s adjusted operating revenues in fiscal 2015.

“Nalcor (through two trusts) has issued C$5.0 billion of bonds that it used to finance the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project and its associated transmission lines. The debt carries a guarantee from the Government of Canada. We believe the province has an incentive to provide extraordinary government support to Nalcor in the event of financial stress. This view primarily stems from the essential nature of NLH’s service responsibilities, as well as the high profile and economic importance of Nalcor’s other development projects like Muskrat Falls.”

So, it’s pretty clearly on the balance sheet after all.

When we’ve asked questions, we’ve been told a lot of things about Muskrat Falls. There have been a lot of definitive answers: methyl mercury won’t be a problem downstream of the reservoir, the marine quick clay of the North Spur is totally safe, the project won’t go overbudget (whoops — another definite that didn’t pan out), the project won’t go overbudget again (whoops again).

We were told that Muskrat Falls is the cheapest option for new electricity. When the project started, we were told that ever-increasing oil prices meant that by January 2017, our oil-driven power bills would inevitably increase by 37 per cent over 2011. In fact, at least so far, those rates have stayed relatively flat, thanks to the cheap oil we were told we wouldn’t have.

So what else might they be wrong about?

It’s a chilling thought.

Something wicked this way comes.

 

Scary.

Scary because if you swap ” Site C” for “Muskrat Falls”, you might be taking a look into the future for BC. All the same issues. No independent review prior to construction.Don’t worry we need it, it’s all good, we know what we are doing.

Only they don’t, it’s not and they clearly didn’t.

Let me be perfectly clear. This is an important lesson for the province that the premier, Bill Bennett and BC Hydro need to heed.

bennettclarkBoth provincial politicians and BC Hydro often assert that Site C has undergone a rigorous environmental review and has been examined by the Joint Review Panel – neither of which can or are qualified to examine the cost or financials of the project.

In fact, even The Joint Review panel recommended Site C be sent to the BC Utilities Commission for an independent review for that purpose – the province of course continued to ignore all of this .

I’ve said it before, and I’ll continue to say it. The province of BC has not done due diligence on Site C and has failed its inherent responsibility to taxpayers by not doing so. And instead of admitting a failure of process and protecting taxpayers from a Muskrat Falls scenario here in BC, the premier has now vowed to get this mess past the point of no return…..

I can only shake my head at such financial irresponsibility.

Check back tomorrow for a compelling photo blog I’m working on and more on BC Hydro and Site C – if there was ever a time for Trudeau and the environment minister to release the rationale for approving the Environmental Assessment Certificate the Harper cabinet kept secret, this is it.

 

 

 

 

Clark vows to get Site C “past the point of no return” …during memorial.

The memorial for former long time premier Bill Bennett was held yesterday as many friends, family and politicians gathered to remember his life and his life’s work.

clarkpalin

 

Among those speaking was Premier Christy Clark,who somehow still managed to find a way to mention herself in her eulogy:

 

“She promised to finish Bennett’s vision for the controversial Site C Dam project.

“Premier Bennett, you got it started and I will get it finished. I will get it past the point of no return.”

Moving beyond the fact that politicking at memorials is really poor form,her statement raised eyebrows of many, I’m told by some who were actually there.

Partly because of the inappropriate timing of the comment, but also because Bennett handled his governments attempt at building Site C in a manner completely opposite to  that of the current government.

Bennett did have a vision, but he did not just force it through like the Clark government is -at least not when it came to Site C

 In fact it was the Bennett government that created  the BC Utilities Commission.

It’s job was ( and still is when government allows it) to regulate Hydro rates and review BC Hydro’s projects independently fully and independently to ensure they are needed, costed properly and ensure all projections/estimates are correct.

Site C did not come to pass back in the eighties because when the BC Utilities Commission reviewed it ( remember it was then premier Bennett’s government that created this independent agency) they found that there was no need and that it was not in the best interests of British Columbians. The BCUC instructed BC Hydro and the government to begin investigating and pursing other alternatives like geothermal,solar and other alternate means.

And that was the end of Site C. It died with the BC utilities commissions denial. Why?

Because Bennett did not force the dam through like Clark is. He trusted the analysis of the agency he helped create, and put a stop to the plans when they said no. Whether you were on the same side of Bennett politically or not, you have to respect that he did the right thing here.

sitecjprAs I’ve written of previously, it was the Campbell government that exempted Site C under the Clean Energy Act, in my opinion not because hydro power is clean, but because they knew it was very likely that the BC Utilities Commission independent review would once again say it was not needed or justified and deny the project.

Which, will forever be a travesty forced onto this province and certainly not something I could imagine Bennett being proud of. What the Campbell/Clark governments have done with the BC Utilities Commission, crippling it, is appalling.

Cities in the area of Site C, asked the province to send it to the BC Utilities Commission. The Union of BC Municipalities, made of  representatives from all cities in BC, passed a resolution asking the Premier to send Site C to the BCUC, all because of concern over the escalating costs & lack of proof it is needed. Many other groups and organizations have asked, including other political parties – all to deaf ears.

There are still several outstanding court cases on Site C from First Nations in the area and Clark knows all of this was done wrong – she also knows  there is a good chance that any of those three court cases could put a stop to all of it.

It just doesn’t make sense.  Particularly to make a vow of  “getting it past the point of no return” in a eulogy for the man who created the process her government refuses to acknowledge and participate in. That is not, by far, a show of respect.

 

clarkreversemistakeRecently, Clark heralded the federal government for reversing the decision on the Coast Guard closures in BC, and it’s time for her government to do the same thing on Site C- particularly when you look at what happens when you do things the wrong way.

Look at Muskrat Falls, a dam project that looks like it might go down in history as one of the biggest boondoggles an eastern province has seen. In fact, the costs and projects are so out of line, that the Newfoundland government is conducting an independent review now, during construction.  Ironically the scope of the review is nearly identical to what the BC Utilities Commission should have done on Site C.

It’s now being called an over budget burden on the province and there are growing calls for the province to cut its losses and stop construction before it gets worse:

The Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador was always destined to define the political legacies of the politicians who championed it. As by far the biggest capital undertaking in Newfoundland and Labrador history, it would either enrich the province as a North American clean-energy power provider or saddle it with a Hoover Dam-sized debt it would long regret.

The skeptics hovered long before oil and gas prices tanked, leaving the provincial government facing massive deficits far into the future and dismal prospects for fetching premium prices for the project’s power on export markets. Newfoundland taxpayers risk paying for Muskrat Falls in more ways than one.

The $7.7-billion project also risks burdening Canadian taxpayers, who, thanks to the federal loan guarantee on $5-billion worth of Muskrat Falls bonds, are responsible for repayment should the provincial entity that issued them default. t, thankfully, is not an immediate concern.

~snip~

The project is behind schedule and over budget. In September, Nalcor upped its cost estimate for Muskrat Falls to $7.7-billion from an initial $6.2-billion. The total comes to more than $9-billion, when financing costs during the construction phase are included. That may not be the end of cost overruns before the power starts flowing in 2018 – or later.

~snip~

“This politically charged project is large relative to the provincial economy and is expected to place considerable upward pressure on future electricity rates,” Moody’s noted this year in a report on Newfoundland Power, the private power distributor that, as a condition of the federal guarantee on Muskrat Falls, must buy its electricity from Nalcor.

Former top provincial bureaucrats Ron Penney and David Vardy, who estimate that Muskrat Falls will increase Newfoundland’s gross debt by 50 per cent, recently called the project “one of the most unfortunate public-policy decisions in the history of the province.”

Many Newfoundlanders wish they could simply pull the plug.

It’s crystal clear that much like Muskrat Falls, the politicians in BC who are championing Site C are also trying to define their political legacies,and Clark’s bizarre vow during her eulogy, sets an ominous tone for hers.  This is not how Bennett would have wanted it finished.

It’s time to stop the project before more taxpayers money is wasted. Listen to the Forces of Know. Do the right thing. There are good, solid, job creation alternatives. Twin the Transcanada to Alberta. Create a market for solar power. Be proactive, not reactive.

Remember Ms. Clark, you said it yourself: “It’s never too late to reverse a mistake that was made.”

** Link to the fundraising page for legal fees of Rocky Mountain Fort Campers named in BC Hydro lawsuit . https://www.gofundme.com/s6c4s4vs

** Check back tomorrow for another post with some compelling photos that are raising big questions.

And why exactly is the BC government not interested in taxing absentee/foreign real estate investors?

pandaAffordable housing has been a huge issue in Metro Vancouver,increasingly in Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond as the debate over whether or not to tax absentee and/or foreign investors driving the market, continues.

The province, had this to say recently as to why they would not be imposing such a tax: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/bc-real-estate-tax-housing-prices-1.3409587

Premier Christy Clark has said housing affordability will be ‘front and centre’ as the government prepares to deliver its budget next month, but she has also shot down speculation and luxury taxes on foreign investors as fixes for rising prices.

To me,as a British Columbian fully invested in my families future in the province,it just doesn’t make sense.  Are the Forces of NO, striking families- and successful singles and couples in British Columbia, once again? 

My answer? Yes, I believe they are.

But why? Why would the province put foreign or absentee owners -whose only interest may be parking funds in a hot real estate market rather than building community-over people actively involved in our local and provincial economies?

The province of British Columbia recently issued  the 1st sovereign Panda Bond in China and it has been making news in financial papers around the world: http://www.ecns.cn/cns-wire/2016/01-22/196811.shtml

ECNS) — The Canadian province of British Columbia issued a panda bond on January 21, the first by a foreign country in China’s interbank bond market.

BC Finance Minister Michael de Jong, Ambassador of Canada to China Guy Saint-Jacques, and representatives of the BC Finance Ministry, Bank of China and HSBC briefed the media in Beijing on Friday.

The three-year-term bond, priced at 2.95 percent, raised 3 billion yuan, or about 665 million Canadian Dollars.

It was twice-oversubscribed by domestic investors in China, including policy banks, commercial banks, fund managers and brokerage firms. Proceeds were immediately reinvested in an offshore RMB-denominated investment with Singapore’s United Overseas Bank. Net income on the RMB investment will be used to support and expand the province’s trade and investment offices in China.

“The coupon rate is set below 3 percent, not because nobody wants to buy it. There’s strong appetite for AAA-rated bonds,” de Jong said, adding that the oversubscription owes much to lead underwriters.

BC got approval from the People’s Bank of China to issue panda bonds worth 6 billion yuan ($938 million) for terms of up to 10 years on November 27.

“It could have taken years,” de Jong said. “We’re very pleased to see the level of cooperation by the NAFMI (National Association of Financial Market Institutional Investors) and our lead underwriters.”

BC was the first foreign government to sell a “dim sum” bond of 2.5 billion yuan in 2013 and 3 billion yuan in 2014.

A dim sum bond is issued outside of China but denominated in Chinese renminbi, while a panda bond is a renminbi-denominated bond from a non-Chinese issuer sold within mainland China.

The move allows the use of RMB in bilateral trade and more efficient investment for Canadian financial institutions.

“It shows our support for the internationalization of RMB,” Saint-Jacques said. “RMB use could save 5 to 6 percent of transaction fees.”

Accordingly, bilateral trade in 2015 amounted to 86 billion Canadian dollars.

In 2015, Canada became the first country in the Americas to become an offshore clearing and trading centre for the RMB.

Saint-Jacques said Canada hopes to further advance political and economic ties with China.

“Our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is likely to attend the G20 summit in Hangzhou in September, and we hope high-level Chinese leaders could visit Canada in 2016,” he said.

And who did the BC government hire to be the lead underwriters on this deal? 

HONG KONG, Jan 4 (IFR) – British Columbia has hired Bank of China and HSBC Bank (China) as joint lead underwriters for a potential maiden offering of Panda bonds.

The offering is for up to 3 billion renminbi ($460 million) with a maximum tenor of five years.

The Canadian province registered with Chinese regulators in late November to issue Panda bonds of up to Rmb6bn in the domestic interbank market.

Yes. 

HSBC.( China branch)

And the Bank of China: 

Both banks have been plagued in one form or another, by investigations into bribery,fraud and missing funds. Don’t trust me, ask your financial advisor!

I just want you to sit, and think a moment, about the possibility that the reason that Premier Clark and the BC Liberal MLAs don’t want to tax foreign investment is…

… that they are relying on it. You issue the first sovereign bond in China, and you clearly need it to be a success. Your LNG Prosperity Fund you promised isn’t working out for you and you need some help,yesterday. 

Are you going to send a message to foreign investors who may buy those bonds, that BC is not interested in your investment?

I think not.

Not when the: “Net income on the RMB investment will be used to support and expand the Province’s trade and investment offices in China” ttp://advantagebc.ca/blog/b-c-enters-worlds-third-largest-capital-market-with-panda-bond-issue/

BC families first? With no effort to increase value added exports instead of raw logs etc. to keep BC workers, working? And no effort to make it easier to own your own home, in your hometown, in Metro Vancouver?

Ha.

 

May the Force of No be with you…

clarkyogasillyOver the years I’ve heard a lot of politicians make some really questionable comments – the tweet above is but one in a sea of many by Premier Clark.  But after her most recent thoughtless remark made news, I’m thinking she might want to lay off the Star Wars for a while…

From CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/b-c-premier-christy-clark-strikes-back-at-lng-opponents-1.3419993

Clark had sharp words Monday for what she calls the “forces of no” in British Columbia who mount resistance efforts to government initiatives purely out of a fear of change.

First Nations leaders quickly shot back at the premier, labelling her comments “paternalistic” and “mindless.”

Clark made the statements during a news conference where she fielded questions about opposition to the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership,environmental concerns over liquefied natural gas developmentand tax breaks for the mining industry.

She said negotiating trade pacts and resource developments involves tough, but potentially rewarding benefits and she would rather be known as an achiever than a quitter.

“There are people who just say no to everything, and heaven knows there are plenty of those in British Columbia,” said Clark. “But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you give up. It doesn’t mean you should be a quitter.”

She criticized a coalition of First Nations, environmentalists and Opposition New Democrats who signed a declaration demanding a protection zone near a proposed multi-billion-dollar LNG project at Lelu Island near Prince Rupert.

“I’m not sure what science the forces of no bring together up there except that it’s not really about the science,” said Clark.

“It’s not really about the fish. It’s just about trying to say no. It’s about fear of change. It’s about a fear of the future.”

Ms. Clark, I’m not even sure where to begin on this one. There are definitely people in this province that would like to see all reliance on fossil fuels stop right this instant and have everyone hand over the keys to their vehicle while munching on kale chips as an alternative food source to anything else. And, that’s their prerogative.

But to be honest and pragmatic, we know that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Those people are not the people saying No in Prince Rupert. Nor are they the people saying No to Site C, or No to the Massey Bridge. And your comments are not only patronizing, they are completely hypocritical and thoughtless.

sitecprotest3

Having been born and raised in northern BC and having now lived here in Metro Vancouver for many years, your lack of understanding of the diversity and concerns of interior and northern residents is appallingly clear.

Yes, people want good paying jobs to support their families,but they also have a deep concern for what the impact of the resource industry is having, in and around their communities. They want to know that things will be ok for their children, and their childrens’ children. They want to see vast forests,clean lakes with fish,wild animals to hunt and yes, trap. But they need good jobs as well.

2014-11-11 026

 

Without a doubt,it’s a complicated issue that in many cases divides not only communities but families as well. They see the writing on the wall, and want a future that is bright,not bleak. It’s not anywhere as cut and dried as your government pretends it is. But when your government only offers one option to a community and says ” This is it! Take it or leave it!” IS that defined as success? Not to me. It’s called no way out.

At a time when the world is bravely facing economic and social challenges new to many, British Columbia should be in a position to take a leadership role in adapting,evolving and diversifying… yet we see very little YES from your government on anything that isn’t directed towards trolling some targeted votes from certain sectors,or placating corporate supporters.
Why is that? Ah yes, the forces of NO…..

It just doesn’t make sense. Allowing  every adult the opportunity to upgrade basic education and english, takes the burden off of all provincial services when they are able to achieve financial independence, and contribute to our economies locally, and provincially.

 

It just doesn’t make sense.  Good solid core essentials must be met before re-tooling education to meet demands of industry- particularly odd in the face of so many funding cuts.

 

 

It just doesn’t make sense. US ports will not ship that thermal coal. The cost of solar has dropped dramatically. Why BC isn’t legislating the use of it in certain new builds and creating a market for jobs and industry,is beyond me. Oh wait… the forces of NO in Victoria won’t let that happen.

 

  • The last time the BC Utilities Commission turned down Site C because it wasn’t needed, your government was told to explore options like solar, geothermal energy and other alternatives, but again, government forces of NO prevailed and nothing was done. We are the only jurisdiction along the fiery Pacific Rim not capitalizing on geothermal. Why? No political will.

It just doesn’t make sense. Geothermal would be cheaper, create more jobs and be more environmentally friendly than Site C. And there’s evidence to back that up. Don’t take my word for it. It’s all out there to find on Google.

We’ve seen a host of other No’s over the years.

 

It just doesn’t make sense that we aren’t.

 

It just doesn’t make sense. With a new federal government committed to vital infrastructure projects, the funding could be found at that level, and at a fraction of the cost of Site C, which is not needed.

 

It just doesn’t make sense. Education and the care of children is well recognized  as a cornerstone for a societies future success. Every support should be there to ensure every single child succeeds, that their family succeeds. It costs less to do this early, than deal with social issues later on that result.

 

I could go on,but the No’s that have come from this government far outweigh the Yes’s. I think you know this better than I, Ms.Clark…it just doesn’t make sense.

While average British Columbians face difficulties paying BC Hydro bills that have been raised every year for years – and who get cut off if they can’t pay it- they see government that is now looking at allowing resource companies to defer their bills! A questionable idea if for only the reason of BC Hydro’s questionable practice of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. 

In fact, while years ago the resource sector was a driving force in BC, it hasn’t been for years. Norman Farrell has been looking at this for a while, but even apart from his fine work, the facts don’t lie.

Take a look at some startling facts that totally negate the provinces continual subsidy of the resource sector: http://credbc.ca/role-energy-sector-bcs-economy/

Oil, gas and support services make up just 3% of our GDP, compared to 15% for manufacturing and construction and over 23% for financial and real estate services. When secondary energy services are added into the equation, the total contribution to GDP is still only 11%. While this number is significant, it’s certainly not where most provincial economic activity is coming from.

Where are the jobs? 

In BC, the mining, oil and gas sector combined employs just 1% of the workforce.

BC energy jobs
Source: 2012 British Columbia Financial and Economic Review

Instead, the biggest employers in the province are:

  • Construction – 205,000 jobs
  • Manufacturing – 164,000 jobs
  • Tourism – 127,000 jobs
  • Real estate and property development – 121,000 jobs

The film sector adds an additional 36,000 jobs and the technology sector employs 84,000 people – more than oil, mining, gas and forestry combined.

Do you see now, Ms.Clark, why there is so much concern? Why people are so worried that the province has not been taking a leadership role in adapting and innovating a new path?

We are worried that you are not helping those whose industries are suffering, train for new careers and paths where they can use those skills?

We are wondering why your government sticks to the same dire path simply if for no other reason than you cannot confront the fact there is a better way. You don’t ask communities what they want or need, you march in and tell them…and then ask what you can do to compensate them after the fact. A cheque here. A pond there. People give in quickly in the face of steam-rollers.

Yet British Columbians are asking for a better way – they  are saying No to the plans that  just don’t make sense and yes to the ones that show innovation, leadership – but those aren’t seen very often.
It’s not about saying No to everything, it’s about saying YES to good policy and the right projects, with proper oversight -case in point, Mt. Polley. A failure on two points. You cannot compromise on environmental or community protections.

prayer stick 1

And we’re not quitters either Ms. Clark. Because unlike you, we will all still be here long after your time as premier has ended.

The forces of No that are hurting this province aren’t the ones in Prince Rupert, or Fort St. John, or even Richmond who are standing up for what is right.

They are the one’s right beside you in Victoria.

 

bc liberal caucus

 

Letter from a reader : An Uber perspective from a former taxi driver.

I’ve been busy researching for upcoming posts on Site C and BC Hydro next week – there is a lot to cover since BC Hydro filed suit against the Treaty 8 Rocky Mountain campers along with a few local farmers and residents supporting them – but I’m taking a break from the keyboard this weekend.

I generally don’t make posts out of emails or letters that I get- that is what the comment section is for – but thought this one merited special attention because it concerns the ongoing Uber debate, and comes from a former taxi driver. His name has been withheld to protect his identity.

 

I'm troubled by the political debate being generated over allowing Uber into the BC transportation market. Here are several concerns and a couple of stories (names are fictional) from my years of experience in the taxi industry as a driver, dispatcher and manager. 
I haven't had any skin in the game for 16 years now, but I doubt anything has substantially changed in terms of the hours taxi drivers work, their work conditions, or the wages they bring home to their families.

The first of my concerns is "Branding". Uber is "ride sharing" which sounds nice, but it's false. Uber represents a different model of a taxi service, but it's still a for profit operation, multinational in scale, avoiding US taxes by splintering offices off to tax havens like any other multinational. To brand Uber as "the sharing economy" is fundamentally dishonest.

So what do we get under our current model of taxi service? We get a system with a limited number of licenses available, protecting the ability of the workers to earn a living. We get a system where workers are trained and adequately insured. We get a system where in most cases, a dispatch office operates, and someone knows, if a car "disappears" the approximate location of the car at the time it fell out of communication. We get a system with a measure of local accountability for complaints launched by the consumer. 

The second concern is the disservice to the current cohort of taxi drivers when we hear that the consumer is being "ripped off". 

I met David outside a 7-11 in September 2007. I hadn't seen him for many years. He was a taxi driver, who, unlike me, made his life's living from it. We chatted, and I learned that David was temporarily homeless. David is an intelligent guy, an encyclopedia of baseball statistics. David is quick-witted and sardonic. He was homeless because he had contracted a heart condition , causing him to be unfit to drive. He was six weeks shy of being able to collect CPP. His cash reserves had run out, and welfare was not enough to rent an apartment in this city, so he was sleeping rough. 

I met him again in November, and he now had CPP and had managed to secure low rent accommodation in one of the cheaper condo towers in town. He said..'Yeah, it's a great building. You never have to wait for an elevator because there's a dealer on every floor..." 

Reality check. There are exemptions to labor laws for taxi drivers. Shifts are 10-12 hours in length. The minority of drivers own their own cars and licenses.. Most either work on commission or a per-shift lease agreement. The most I ever "took home" from a single shift was $300 (during a snowstorm in the 1980's) and the least I ever took home from a shift was $25. The average (again, in the 80's) was about $80). Meter rates, lease rates, fuel costs, have all changed since then, but David spent well over 30 years working in the industry and wound up homeless in the fall of 2007.

The second story is my own. I'd left full time work in the taxi business years before, but during a short work transition, rather than collect EI, I decided to pick up a few shifts and get by that way. I won't pretend this experience is representative day to day, but when you let people into your car whose circumstances you don't know ,or when you get into a stranger's car, all kinds of things can happen. The vast majority of the time, the worst thing taxi drivers deal with is inebriation. It's pretty harmless. 

On this day I answered a call at a pretty ordinary Motel at 6 PM on a sunny May evening, A man waiting outside got in and yelled an address at me.. His voice was panicked and angry and I couldn't make out the address. He pounded his window with his fists and yelled "Just F**ing Go!.. I went. 

The next 15 minutes was the most terrifying of my life. The man in the back couldn't stop wailing away with his fists on the seats, the windows, and he yelled directions at me. He yelled at himself.."I've f**cked everything up.. I've f*
**d up ".... 

This is so surreal you may well not understand. I get that. At one point he yelled "Stop!". I stopped. For just a few second, he jumped out of the car and pounded his fists on a tree beside the car...He got back in bleeding. Why didn't I hit the accelerator in the few seconds he was out? I'll never know. I was frozen , terrified of this man filled with a kind of panicked rage I had never encountered. And I understood what he was doing..He was hitting everything but me because he needed me to get somewhere. During the ride to his destination I don't believe I had a single conscious thought though. I just did whatever the hell he wanted.

I let him out in front of a small house in a blue collar neighborhood. The postage stamp lawn was littered with children's toys. I drove a hundred yards up the road and parked, and breathed. My dispatcher was on the radio asking me what was happening. Apparently the dispatcher had been calling me for ten minutes. I gave him the address where I dropped the guy off. In just a couple of minutes 7 or 8 police cars surrounded the house. I don't know what happened after that.

It was the last shift I ever drove taxi. 

I could tell many more stories, but most of the time, taxi drivers make a precarious, honest enough living doing something that has some protections attached for both themselves and for the consumer. They have to be street smart, but they provide service to the disabled, to the hurried, to the drunk and the sober without prejudice. There are times when the driver in a story like the one above is actually harmed, unlike me. Those times are rare given the inherent risks, but do you still feel "ripped off" when you pay a stranger $40 to get home after you've had a few? I don't.

The government needs to make decisions about Uber. It needs to make policy that protects both workers and consumers. That means regulation and oversight. It doesn't mean sound-bites and it doesn't mean devising a political wedge issue for by-elections.








Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land issue 3-point plan for Site C, call on provincial and federal governments to act.

http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/treaty-8-stewards-of-the-land-set-out-conditions-to-protect-lands-565628881.html

ROCKY MOUNTAIN FORT CAMP, BC, Treaty 8 Territory, Jan. 18, 2016 /CNW/ – First Nation members today called on the Canadian and British Columbian governments to embrace a three-point plan that will protect lands at imminent threat of destruction as preparatory work continues to build the Site C dam.

“As Treaty 8Stewards of the Land, we have been camped out at Rocky Mountain Fort for many days in accordance with our belief that the Site C dam project represents a direct, and unnecessary threat to the traditional lands of Treaty 8 peoples,” said Yvonne Tupper. “We call on Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Christy Clark to work with us to ensure that these lands are protected by temporarily suspending approvals to log forests, build roads, and clear further lands in preparation for dam construction.”

The three-point plan calls for:

  • A temporary suspension of all construction and land-clearing operations related to the Site C dam project until court challenges initiated by First Nations and local landowners who are opposed to the project are finally determined.
  • The federal government to temporarily suspend all federal Site C dam project approvals and the issuance of any future permits pending an expedited, open and transparent federal review of the infringement of Constitutionally protected Treaty 8 rights by the Site C dam.
  • The provincial government to temporarily suspend all construction work at the Site C dam site pending an independent review by the BC Utilities Commission of the Site C dam project, with full procedural safeguards, as recommended by the federal/provincial Joint Review Panel and many others.

Today’s release of the three-point protection plan marks the 20th day that Treaty 8 First Nation Stewards of Land, joined by local landowners and supporters from across British Columbia, have been camped at the historic Rocky Mountain Fort site. The camp stands a short distance from where the Moberly River meets the Peace River, just up-river from the proposed Site C dam site. The dam, if built, would flood 107 kilometres of river valley lands along the Peace River and its tributaries and lead for example to the permanent loss of numerous First Nation burial grounds, other culturally and historically important sites, and valuable farmland.

Historically and still today, the Peace River has been the entranceway to vast bountiful lands and waters, as well as being the foothold that has welcomed and provided for many different groups of people and enterprises.

There are two significant events that explain why we are united and with peaceful intent to protect and care for the Peace River Valley.  First, along these waters and islands of the Peace River, battling Beaver (also known as the Dane-zaa) and Cree agreed to a truce so that their future generations could co-exist and be sustained by the land and water in perpetuity. Secondly, the signing of the Treaty in the Peace River Valley between First Nations and the Crown promised that we would live a peaceful shared co-existence. Also, First Nations were guaranteed to be able to always pursue their usual vocations prior to entering into Treaty and without forced interference.

There are other examples of peaceful relationships with First Nations: explorers were guided into new places; fur traders were taught ways to survive and prospered; gold seekers passed through freely; and, pioneer families established farming homesteads.

These longstanding relationships and the solemn promises of Treaty are what guide us and it is in that spirit that we are here today at the Rocky Mountain Fort Camp and its surroundings on the south banks of the Peace River Valley.  We, the Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land and our supporters, are direct descendants of the people who were the first inhabitants, Treaty signatories, and later, settlers of the Peace River Valley.

We are reasonable, responsible, and law abiding citizens.  We are mothers, youth, Elders, farmers, bushmen, business owners, teachers and artists. Our support is not only local but nation-wide.  We are respectful and have no intent to be involved in any occurrences that would be unsafe or harmful to either humans and property.

“We continue to be involved in the peaceful, lawful exercise of our Treaty Rights to protect the land and highlight our concerns about the irreversible, negative impacts that this project will have on the Peace River Valley and on the exercise of our constitutionally protected Treaty 8 rights,” said Art Napoleon.

“We want a binding commitment from the federal and provincial governments that they will honor, respect and take into proper consideration the findings and recommendations emanating from the above three action items. Once the three actions are completed, then the governments can decide whether or not to lift the suspension on Site C’s construction or to make the suspension permanent,” said Helen Knott.

The Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land contacted internationally respected energy expert Robert McCullough to ask whether or not a temporary suspension of construction of the Site C Dam would be costly to BC taxpayers and hydro ratepayers.

Robert McCullough replied,

“The short answer is no. The federal/provincial Site C Joint Review Panel found that Site C is being built before it is needed and so the relatively high cost Site C power will be exported at a loss for the first four years of operation. BC Hydro is likely to lose 50 cents on every dollar of Site C power exported during the first four years of operation. This amounts to a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars, which is likely to more than offset the costs associated with temporarily suspending Site C Construction.   

Ironically, BC Hydro is concerned about delay while regional bulk power electric prices are falling to their lowest levels in history. The U.S. Energy Information Administration annual on-peak average price for our region has fallen to just 41% of its levels since 2007. Current prices — and forward prices through 2025 — are approximately half the price of Site C.”

This information demonstrates the economic folly of Site C.  Clearly the Treaty 8Stewards of the Land and their supporters are acting in the best interests of all British Columbians.


I urge all British Columbians to contact their MLA’s and MP’s, and show them this release. These points are not only reasonable, they are actions government should have done in the first place. It is not too late to halt the construction on this project and in fact, it is essential.

BACKPOSTS/HISTORY:

1) BC Hydro issues eviction notice under cover of  New Years Eve http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/02/bc-hydro-issues-rocky-mountain-fort-campers-at-site-c-a-24-hour-eviction-notice-on-new-years-eve/

2) A litmus test for ‘Real Change’ : where is Justin Trudeau on Site C? Why isn’t new federal government investigating why Harper invoked cabinet secrecy on Site C decison? http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/04/the-litmus-test-for-real-change-where-is-prime-minister-justin-trudeau-on-sitec/

3) ( photos of demonstration here)  Separate demonstration at Site C BC Hydro gates results in three arrests, including Arthur Hadland- long time former Peace River politician http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/06/longtime-peace-river-politician-and-site-c-opponent-arthur-hadland-arrested-at-site-c-demonstration-today

4)  UBCIC issues press release one day after Treaty 8 does, asking BC Hydro to stand down.  http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/07/first-nations-prepare-for-arrest-to-stop-site-c-dam-ask-prime-minister-to-suspend-federal-approval/

5) Debunking Energy Minister Bill Bennetts misleading statment on Global BC http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/08/cutting-through-the-spin-of-energy-minister-bill-bennetts-statements-on-global-bc-news/

6) Powerful and compelling words from a Treaty 8 elder : http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/11/powerful-and-compelling-words-from-treaty-8-elders-at-rocky-mountain-fort-campbut-is-anyone-in-government-listening/

7) Transparency & accountability from provincial/federal governments lost in Site C process/decisions: http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/14/deception-and-privileged-secrets-are-common-facets-of-politics-transparency-accountability-on-site-c-lost-at-both-provincial-federal-levels/

“Deception and privileged secrets are common facets of politics.” – Transparency & accountability on Site C lost at both provincial & federal levels.

There’s a common thread among many of the biggest and best stories I’ve covered here: lack of government accountability and transparency.  I recall contacting a BC government ministries media contact for a comment on a story I was doing once, only to get a clear denial back refuting everything. I sent him the internal documents that had been passed onto me from a company that engineered the project, contradicting his statements and others that even went into depth explaining all of it.

He stuck to the governments line. Didn’t exist, no such thing, And that’s happened more than a few times. It’s hard not to be completely cynical in the face of story after story, scandal after scandal and still see the same old politicians smiling through it all.

The fact is that most governments rely heavily on the disinterest or distractions of it’s citizens to continue to operate without scrutiny into their activities – a lack of attention from voters actually enables bad government. Most of us are so busy just living life, raising families, working 9-5 and if you are lucky enough to relax a bit here and there even better- who wants to wade into politics?!

Its often not until people start to find out what is happening right under their noses that they start asking questions and sometimes it’s too late. But it’s not too late with Site C, the contentious project to flood another portion of the Peace River Valley is underway with logging and a work camp in place.

Over the past two weeks I’ve been covering the events as they unfolded after BC Hydro posted a 24 hour eviction notice at the camp on New Years Eve. BC Hydro has yet to evict the campers, who are a combination of mainly women but a few men, who are members of Treaty 8 exercising their right to be on Treaty 8 land. They are supported by locals who are also opposed to the dam,some of whom who will lose land, or homes, and others who have been longtime critics.

It’s been interesting to see voters reactions to some of the items I’ve posted, in particular the post in which I refute Energy Minister Bill Bennetts statements on Global TV, that the province conducted 7 years of due diligence. It’s a prime example of what they don’t tell you being more important than what they do tell you.

Let’s talk about that again for a moment in the context of public trust. When you are an elected official, the voters have essentially said: “We have chosen you to represent us,and we trust you will act in good faith.”  But the reaction by many to hearing that the BC government had exempted a 9 billion dollar + project from the proper regulatory review, was complete and utter shock. No, it was not well known and because it happened 6 years ago, it’s not widely come up in most stories on SiteC.

I still feel strongly the province failed the public trust by not allowing the BC Utilities Commission to do it’s job. Not only that, I say this government is failing it’s inherent fiduciary duty to voters as well in even contemplating such a project knowing full well the state of BC Hydro’s finances: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Hydro+paid+most+dividends+using+borrowed+cash/10723965/story.html

“BC Hydro has borrowed most of the billions of dollars in dividends it has been forced to pay the provincial government over the last two decades.

The cash-strapped Crown corporation has been locked into returning a share of its profits to the provincial treasury based on an old formula that was increasingly unaffordable, said Energy Minister Bill Bennett.

~Snip~

The Crown energy corporation has paid $5.4 billion in dividend payments since 1992, of which 60 per cent was borrowed money, energy ministry data shows.

The government uses the Hydro money to reduce what it has to borrow for its other provincial capital projects, such as highways, schools and hospitals.

Bennett said it’s an unsustainable practice that he’s committed to change in 2018 — a year after the next provincial election.

Critics, including B.C.’s auditor-general, have long accused the provincial government of being addicted to Hydro’s annual cash windfall, and have warned that Hydro is racking up debt and deferring costs in order to meet government’s financial expectations.

But neither government nor Hydro has previously admitted the extent to which Hydro has borrowed money to meet its provincial demands.

Others have accused the province of over-milking Hydro’s profits, which pushed the corporation to hike consumers’ electricity rates to afford its continued operations. Hydro rates are set to rise 28 per cent over the next five years.

Former auditor-general John Doyle noted Hydro has simply deferred costs into future years, which “creates the appearance of profitability where none actually existed”

Interestingly enough, this first came up when I was contacted by a Chetwynd resident recently,asking where all the money went from BC Hydro. I sent her both the above link, and this one: http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/op-ed/comment-debt-subterfuge-will-cost-b-c-hydro-ratepayers-1.2092192

Ratepayers in B.C. can expect dramatic electricity-rate increases for years to come.

Those rate increases will be needed to pay off B.C. Hydro’s soaring long-term debt and other costs the company has shunted to future ratepayers to make itself seem profitable and offset the impact of its spending on current customers.

Meanwhile, residential ratepayers — who have been cutting back on electricity consumption in recent years — will consume less, yet pay more each month.

B.C. Hydro has increasingly issued debt to finance its activities, with the company’s long-term debt having increased from $6.8 billion in 2004 to $16.7 billion last year — an increase of 146 per cent. The amount spent each year in interest payments alone has increased 35 per cent since 2004 and now amounts to $685 million, up from $507 million.

It’s all a shell game.To many financial analysts it’s a recipe for all intents and purposes, bankruptcy. The province is fully aware of this, the premier is aware of this and for damn sure Bill Bennett is aware of this since he claims he’s going to fix it all…. after the next election: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/bc-hydro-preps-for-rate-review/article26556170/

The B.C. Liberal government, no fan of the independent B.C. Utilities Commission, has pushed aside the regulator of Hydro rates to suit its political needs since 2012 – conveniently, before the last provincial election. And the cabinet has approved billions of dollars’ worth of pet projects without the regulator’s scrutiny.

~snip~

Mr. Bennett is adamant that government should determine energy policy, and he is likely to exclude another two major projects from a regulatory review before this year is out. Although a public consultation is still in process, Mr. Bennett is very much leaning toward bypassing the commission again, to fast-track a pair of transmission lines that would bring electric power to natural gas operations in the province’s northeast.

But there is opposition, on the grounds that ratepayers will have to pick up the tab at some point for all these government-driven decisions. Critics – chiefly ratepayers – argue the best way to ensure that Hydro is spending only what it needs, is to let the independent regulator do its job as the watchdog.

The BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre has been calling for the commission’s role to be restored for that reason. Now the group is taking advantage of the rate structure review to propose new relief for low-income residents who make up about 11 per cent of Hydro’s residential customers. BC Hydro’s residential electricity rates have increased by 47 per cent over the past decade, they argue, while social assistance rates and the minimum wage have been almost frozen.

The group is just one of the stakeholders that will be lining up to try to influence the shape the coming rate increases. They know there is a reckoning due for all the years of government tinkering and “rate smoothing.”

Mr. Bennett says he has a 10-year plan to keep rates low, but there is undeniably upward pressure. The Crown corporation’s capital plan calls for spending $2.4-billion each year for the next 10 years. Because rates haven’t kept up with Hydro’s real revenue requirements, the corporation has been amassing debt in what it calls “deferral accounts” – those accounts will reach more than $5-billion by 2018. At the same time, demand for Hydro power is falling short of its forecasts, and the cost of producing energy is climbing

That someone like me, has to sit here and piece these bits and pieces together to show you what your elected officials will not, is appalling. Alone, these articles were perhaps surprising,but not many read them.Together, a year later matched with other pieces of information, a worrisome look at what happens when no ones watching.

BC Hydro has been borrowing money, to pay the government dividends, which the government uses to fund its pet projects, among other things. The debt at BC Hydro is mounting, the government has blatantly exempted several BC Hydro projects from review by the regulatory agency responsible and plans to exempt more.

The BC Utilities Commission is essentially the only check and balance taxpayers have to ensure there is some control over what BC Hydro and government get up to. But because government doesn’t like have any control asserted over it’s decisions, it often stops the BC Utilities Commission from doing it’s job.

But don’t worry. Government has got it all handled…

It’s bad enough that so much is kept hidden, or never mentioned or that our Energy Minister, knowing all of this full well, would go on Global and state 7 years of due diligence has been done ( Still a lie in my opinion).

But not only that, they put bids out and  finalized contracts while there are three court cases pending from First Nations  in the province.

With yesterdays news that the BC Supreme court  ruled the BC government had failed to consult properly with First Nations on the Enbridge proposal, one wonders how this will impact the court cases involving Site C.

The province now finds itself in a tenuous position, stuck between a legal rock and a hard place…appeal the BC Supreme court decision on Enbridge  which implies the province feels they did consult First Nations and sends a defiant message to Coastal First Nations… or don’t appeal and have a standing ruling that may be used as a helpful precedent in the Site C cases.

And speaking of being stuck between rocks and hard places, Justin Trudeau and his cabinet are in a similar position with regards to Site C.

As Trudeau mentioned last year, he plans to develop a new relationship with First Nations across the country: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/justin-trudeau-afn-indigenous-aboriginal-people-1.3354747

“It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations peoples, one that understands that the constitutionally guaranteed rights of First Nations in Canada are not an inconvenience but rather a sacred obligation,” said Trudeau to loud applause from First Nations chiefs this morning.

~Snip~

Where measures are found to be in conflict with your rights, where they are inconsistent with the principles of good governance, or where they simply make no public policy sense, we will rescind them,” said Trudeau.

Good to know. Because both First Nations and critics opposed to Site C are calling on  Trudeau to reveal the reasons for approving the Site C Environmental certificates, that the Harper cabinet invoked secrecy on – a practice used far too often by the Harper government – and honour the treaty. http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/Opinion+First+Nations+oppose+Site/11647693/story.html

 

There can be no doubt left, that this is all wrong.It needs to be halted. And the spotlight will continue to shine on both  Premier Clark and Prime Minister Trudeau: Halt construction, honour the Treaty and send this project to the BC Utilities Commission for a full review.

 

BACKPOSTS/HISTORY:

1) BC Hydro issues eviction notice under cover of  New Years Eve http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/02/bc-hydro-issues-rocky-mountain-fort-campers-at-site-c-a-24-hour-eviction-notice-on-new-years-eve/

2) A litmus test for ‘Real Change’ : where is Justin Trudeau on Site C? Why isn’t new federal government investigating why Harper invoked cabinet secrecy on Site C decison? http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/04/the-litmus-test-for-real-change-where-is-prime-minister-justin-trudeau-on-sitec/

3) ( photos of demonstration here)  Separate demonstration at Site C BC Hydro gates results in three arrests, including Arthur Hadland- long time former Peace River politician http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/06/longtime-peace-river-politician-and-site-c-opponent-arthur-hadland-arrested-at-site-c-demonstration-today

4)  UBCIC issues press release one day after Treaty 8 does, asking BC Hydro to stand down.  http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/07/first-nations-prepare-for-arrest-to-stop-site-c-dam-ask-prime-minister-to-suspend-federal-approval/

5) Debunking Energy Minister Bill Bennetts misleading statment on Global BC http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/08/cutting-through-the-spin-of-energy-minister-bill-bennetts-statements-on-global-bc-news/

6) Powerful and compelling words from a Treaty 8 elder : http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/11/powerful-and-compelling-words-from-treaty-8-elders-at-rocky-mountain-fort-campbut-is-anyone-in-government-listening/

**The most telling comments from Bennett came in this Globe and Mail article from a while back. The last two paragraphs, are alarming.
bennettSiteC

Cutting through the spin of Energy Minister Bill Bennett’s misleading statement on Global BC News.

Sitting down with a cup of tea before bed last night, I watched a bit of TV, flipping through the channels before settling on the 10 pm news on Global BC 1. Early on, a segment came up on the arrests at the Site C demonstration outside the BC Hydro gates, and a brief mention of the Treaty 8 campers at the heritage Rocky Mountain Fort Site.

Next thing you know, a gruff Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy & Mines is onscreen talking about Site C.
This was his statement:

” We’re a duly elected government that took seven years to do our due diligence, to determine that this was the best way to acquire new electricity at the lowest price, clean electricity , uh, that is with Site C. We made that decision,uh, we’re going to have to get this project built on time,otherwise it will go over budget.”

It starts at the 1:06 mark  at this video segment, but do watch the entire clip – the energy lawyer at the end say this could still all go sideways : http://globalnews.ca/video/2441396/site-c-controversy

After so many years of writing this blog, or during the years I wrote the debate column in 24Hours Vancouver, the stuff that comes out of politicians mouths really shouldn’t surprise me anymore, but yet, it still does. I guess it’s just the optimist in me that still believes people who are elected should stand with a bit more integrity than this.

My outrage simmering again despite the vanilla chai tea,  I took to social media to quickly share why his statement- unquestioned- was just so outrageous:

And off to bed I went, firmly resolved to blog again in the morning.

Honestly Bill, just because you said it, doesn’t make it true. But of course for many politicians truth is highly subjective.

The truth is that in 2010, under former premier Gordon Campbell, the BC government made sure Site C and many other energy projects,would never face the scrutiny of the public or the BC Utilities Commission. Andrew Nikiforuk sums it up so well, right here:

Bypassing the public’s watchdog

Given the huge cost to taxpayers and so powerful arguments against it, such a project deserves to be adjudicated by an impartial body with the public interest as its mission. That would be the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC).

The specific public mandate of the BCUC is “to ensure that ratepayers receive safe, reliable, and non-discriminatory energy services at fair rates from the utilities it regulates.” The only time the BCUC vetted the Site C project was back in 1983, and it rejected it.

This time around, the B.C. government excluded the project for any such due diligence, explaining “only duly elected officials have a right to make” such monumental decisions and not regulatory bodies specifically designed to provide checks and balances on political decision-making.

Economist Marvin Shaffer told The Tyee that “In my view, the government didn’t want the BCUC to review the merits and in particular the timing of Site C because it could well have been rejected by the Commission.”

“Virtually every ratepayer group including large power users and the wide range of general (commercial) users as well as the Public Interest Advocacy Centre would argue against building Site C at this time,” added Shaffer, a professor at Simon Fraser’s School of Public Policy.

Long story short, if this government doesn’t like the rules of the game, they change them. And we will all pay the price if the federal government does not see fit to intervene and pull approval :

Panel warns of ratepayer hit

But even a 2014 joint federal and provincial environmental assessment panel couldn’t find any real need for the project. Their 473-page study dramatically concluded that the BC Hydro had “not fully demonstrated the need for the project on the timetable set forth… 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.”

The panel pointed out that in most places around the world, energy intensive liquified natural gas (LNG) terminals usually provide their own energy needs by burning natural gas. In addition the dam wouldn’t be generating power till 2024 or several years after most proposed terminals were to be built.

As a result the panel recommended that the BC Utilities Commission conduct a thorough review of the project as well as future provincial electrical needs and societal costs if the government decided to proceed with Site C.

The panel also made many other key points. For example, it concluded that a number of energy alternatives such as geothermal were “competitive with Site C on a standard financial analysis” but found the province hadn’t carefully explored the option.

The panel also noted that “a failure to pursue research over the last 30 years into B.C.’s geothermal resources has left BC Hydro without information about a resource that BC Hydro thinks may offer up to 700 megawatts of firm, economic power with low environmental costs.”

The panel added that the province’s Clean Energy Act gave the province and BC Hydro the mandate to investigate these matters.

The federal assessment also questioned the high cost of the project and the risks for ratepayers: “BC Hydro projects losing $800 million [from the dam] in the first four years of operation. These losses would come home to B.C. ratepayers in one way or another.”

There are outstanding court cases involving Treaty 8 members, who are currently exercising their rights at Rocky Mountain Fort camp, one of the oldest and most historic sites in the province, trying to prevent it from being logged. Rich in history for First Nations and non-indigenous people, history is again being made right now at that site. http://blogs.theprovince.com/2016/01/07/sarah-cox-with-site-c-protest-history-is-again-being-made-at-the-rocky-mountain-fort/  ( a must read, even I had no idea of the history of this site. )

But still, Bill says, we must move ahead and build this dam ( we don’t need) or it will be over budget. ( which history shows is likely to double by the end of construction http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-03-10/large-dams-cost-double-original-budget-oxford-researchers-say)

Why?

It is a legacy project, pure and simple. They knew it would not be approved by the independent review of the BCUC. They did nothing to pursue the alternatives suggested the first time it was rejected. And then they changed the rules, when the rules didn’t work in their favour.

This is not about good policy. It’s not even about clean energy anymore.  It’s about being able to say ” We built the largest infrastructure project BC has ever seen.”

 

 

BACKPOSTS/HISTORY:

1) BC Hydro issues eviction notice under cover of  New Years Eve http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/02/bc-hydro-issues-rocky-mountain-fort-campers-at-site-c-a-24-hour-eviction-notice-on-new-years-eve/

2) A litmus test for ‘Real Change’ : where is Justin Trudeau on Site C? Why isn’t new federal government investigating why Harper invoked cabinet secrecy on Site C decison? http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/04/the-litmus-test-for-real-change-where-is-prime-minister-justin-trudeau-on-sitec/

3) ( photos of demonstration here)  Separate demonstration at Site C BC Hydro gates results in three arrests, including Arthur Hadland- long time former Peace River politician http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/06/longtime-peace-river-politician-and-site-c-opponent-arthur-hadland-arrested-at-site-c-demonstration-today

4)  UBCIC issues press release one day after Treaty 8 does, asking BC Hydro to stand down.  http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/07/first-nations-prepare-for-arrest-to-stop-site-c-dam-ask-prime-minister-to-suspend-federal-approval/

**The most telling comments from Bennett came in this Globe and Mail article from a while back. The last two paragraphs, are alarming.

bennettSiteC

 

*Update Jan.8th-First Nations prepare for arrest to stop Site C dam, ask Prime Minister to suspend Federal approval

UPDATED January 8th-2016 – new release by Grand Chief Stewart Philip 

NEWS RELEASE
January 8th, 2016

UBCIC Calls on BC Hydro to Back off from Peaceful Site C Protestors in Treaty 8 Territory

(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, B.C.- January 8th, 2016) The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) is denouncing BC Hydro’s deliberately provocative and reckless attempts at fast tracking construction on the proposed Site C project despite the legal uncertainty of the project moving forward.

Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land have been camped out at the historic Rocky Mountain Fort Camp since late December to defend their traditional territory in the face of the proposed $9 billion Site C dam, which would flood 107 kilometers of the Peace River and its tributaries. Local landowners have also joined in the fight.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of UBCIC, stated, “We are absolutely outraged that BC Hydro is working at the proposed dam site when critical court proceedings are in motion and a decision on Site C proceeding has yet to be determined. Yesterday, BC Hydro moved equipment in toward the camp, despite publicly saying they are speaking with Site C dam protestors and local authorities to try to peacefully end the standoff. The RCMP made three arrests at the north bank entrance of the project yesterday morning including a former regional district director. We are deeply concerned that BC Hydro’s actions are increasing tensions on the ground.”

Through formal resolutions, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs fully supports the efforts of Treaty 8 First Nations to ensure that their Aboriginal and Treaty Rights are honoured and preserved.

Grand Chief Phillip concluded “We continue to urge the provincial and federal governments to immediately cease proceeding with the proposed Site C dam project until such time as the Site C court proceedings are complete and the Site C Dam proposal is properly reviewed by the BC Utilities Commission. Further provocations on the part of BC Hydro will only serve to escalate tensions in an already volatile situation.”

For further information, contact:
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
President, Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Phone: (250) 490-5314

January 7th,2016

http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/first-nations-prepare-for-arrest-to-stop-site-c-dam-564495361.html

Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land call on Trudeau to stop megadam in B.C.’s Peace Valley

ROCKY MOUNTAIN FORT CAMP, BC, Jan. 7, 2016 /CNW/ – First Nations members camped out at an historic fort site slated for destruction by the Site C dam say they are prepared to face arrest to protect their traditional territory.

Joined by local landowners, Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land say they will not permit BC Hydro to proceed with plans to clear-cut forests around the Rocky Mountain Fort site on the west side of the Moberly River. The site, selected by explorer Alexander Mackenzie, was the first trading post in mainland B.C. and is situated in the traditional territory of Treaty 8 First Nations.

The $9 billion Site C dam would flood 107-kilometres of the scenic Peace River and its tributaries, including the traditional hunting and fishing grounds of Treaty 8 First Nations. In late December, despite three on-going First Nations court cases against the dam, BC Hydro built a bridge across the mouth of the Moberly River in preparation for logging in the proposed reservoir area.

In addition to its legal, economic, political and archaeological significance to indigenous and non-indigenous people, the camp is the gateway to the rest of the threatened Peace Valley. BC Hydro has served notice that the camp must be dismantled.

“Logging and flooding this part of the Peace Valley will irreversibly harm our ability to hunt, fish, trap and exercise other constitutionally-protected Treaty Rights, especially since much of the rest of Treaty 8 Territory has been devastated by other hydro-electric, oil and gas and industrial developments,” said Art Napoleon, “To have any meaning, these treaty rights require a land base and waterways where there are wildlife and fish, and which is capable of supporting a diversity of plant life. Treaty rights also include management level decision-making to protect moose calving grounds, medicine harvesting and berry picking, and spiritual practices – all of which will be obliterated by Site C.”

A delegation of First Nations chiefs told Prime Minister Trudeau’s key Cabinet members in December that suspending federal approval of the Site C dam is a critical litmus test of his government’s promised new relationship with Indigenous Peoples.

“The Prime Minister says that Canada’s most important relationship is with its Indigenous Peoples and that he promises to uphold and respect Treaty Rights,” said Helen Knott, “This is what we are trying to do at a grassroots level.  I speak as Great Great Granddaughter of Chief Bigfoot, the last to sign Treaty 8 in 1911, and I am trying to honour my Grandfather’s original intent and uphold those rights he meant to protect.  I ask Prime Minister Trudeau to also honour that original intent.”

“We applaud the court cases being brought by West Moberly, Prophet River and others, but they take time to wind their way through the courts.  Meanwhile, before the court cases are even heard, BC Hydro is destroying the very valley that these court cases are intended to protect.  The way I see it, they are stealing from future generations, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.  We are not here just for us but for the ones that will come after us,” said Helen Knott. “As individual Treaty 8 First Nation members, we cannot stand by. Do I want to be arrested? No, I am here peacefully doing what I believe is right and needed but this land is a part of who I am and I will take a stand for it. Prime Minister Trudeau can stop BC Hydro from destroying the Peace Valley. Until he does, we will”.

SOURCE Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land

For further information: Helen Knott, Prophet River First Nation member and Treaty 8 Steward of the Land, at (250) 280 2277; Art Napoleon, Saulteau First Nations member and Treaty 8 Steward of the Land, at (250) 818 5626

 

BACKPOSTS/HISTORY:

1) BC Hydro issues eviction notice under cover of  New Years Eve http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/02/bc-hydro-issues-rocky-mountain-fort-campers-at-site-c-a-24-hour-eviction-notice-on-new-years-eve/

2) A litmus test for ‘Real Change’ : where is Justin Trudeau on Site C? Why isn’t new federal government investigating why Harper invoked cabinet secrecy on Site C decison? http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/04/the-litmus-test-for-real-change-where-is-prime-minister-justin-trudeau-on-sitec/

3) ( photos of demonstration here)  Separate demonstration at Site C BC Hydro gates results in three arrests, including Arthur Hadland- long time former Peace River politician http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/06/longtime-peace-river-politician-and-site-c-opponent-arthur-hadland-arrested-at-site-c-demonstration-today

 

Longtime Peace River politician and Site C opponent, Arthur Hadland arrested at Site C demonstration today

***Updated with demonstration photos below. 

Today, those opposed to Site C held a demonstration outside BC Hydro gates. Arthur Hadland was arrested and I’ll have more details as I get them later on.

http://www.alaskahighwaynews.ca/regional-news/site-c/former-prrd-director-hadland-arrested-at-site-c-protest-1.2145055

This is the view of the traffic backed up from that demonstration, largely Alberta vehicles with trailers.

IMG-20160106-01139

This is not the location of the Rocky Mountain Fort Camp where Treaty 8 members are exercising their right to be on the land. http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/02/bc-hydro-issues-rocky-mountain-fort-campers-at-site-c-a-24-hour-eviction-notice-on-new-years-eve/

As reported earlier, that location is a 1793 heritage site the province has had no interest in protecting, that is scheduled to be logged. It is being reported that BC Hydro is evaluating the situation but campers vow to continue to exercise rights under Treaty 8 to be there. http://www.alaskahighwaynews.ca/regional-news/site-c/bc-hydro-evaluating-options-on-protest-encampment-1.2144933

These are three of the campers at that site-hope to have a story shortly on one in particular:

camperssitec

And this is another, Helen, the woman behind the post that resonated with thousands of Indigenous and non-indigenous people across North America: https://reclaimthewarrior.wordpress.com/2016/01/02/for-the-love-of-the-land-keeping-the-peace-river-from-the-site-c-bc-hydro-dam/

helen

Updates later. Shawnigan Lake also had a big demonstration today,very well attended, media tours of the contaminated fill site but I wasn’t able to attend- watch for those stories too.

But until then, check out these storified tweets. There’s a story here. And it’s not being told. BC residents deserve to know why Harpers cabinet invoke cabinet secrecy on the environmental assessment certificates. So why isn’t the new PM investigating this?  https://storify.com/lailayuile/why