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.

“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

*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

A River Runs Through It…the hypocrisy, that is.

So there I was today, between meetings, sitting in the Espresso Cafe in Newton – which incidentally has the best coffee I’ve found in Surrey. Deep rich flavour, none of that burnt bitterness I often find at the red cup chain that shall not be named.

But I digress. There I was, sitting and drinking my coffee, when I saw a Province paper.Not having read one in I don’t know how long, I picked it up to leaf through when something jumped right out at me within the first few pages.
2015-11-30 002

That’s the good-looking version on the nice tablecloth… this is the real document at the BC Utilities Commission website : http://www.bcuc.com/Documents/Proceedings/2015/DOC_45125_A-2_G-182-15_RegTimetable.pdf

Excerpt:

bcuchypocrisy

The full meal deal on this project is here:  http://www.bcuc.com/ApplicationView.aspx?ApplicationId=518

Basically, there are issues with a failed rock armour layer at the WAC Bennett dam –  also on the Peace River – that impacts long term erosion control;the same kind of erosion issues that have concerned Site C critics and have been overlooked by many.

And because the BC Utilities Commission is  the oversight agency that was created to assess these kinds of projects to ensure they are needed and how they will impact BC Hydro rates, this project has gone before the commission and it was deemed a public hearing was needed.

Rightfully so – this is the only check and balance British Columbians have to ensure their best interest with regards to energy projects and BC Hydro rates. 

But the glaring hypocrisy of this project going through the proper process created by the province itself… when the BC  Liberal government and energy minister Bill Bennett exempted a much larger,far more expensive and un-needed project like Site C, is stark!

Now, any person with a stick of commonsense would ask why any government would remove a multi billion dollar project from the regular process. And then follow that same process for a much smaller maintenance issue on a dam, on the same river. Because to me, it just does not make sense.

I was tremendously disappointed to hear the announcement awarding initial contracts for Site C last week, in part because it has not gone through the same process dictated above. No review, no public hearing by the BC Utilities Commission. And the composition of the partnership will be subject for another post ,but right now this is just outrageous.

If the province really believes this project is the right one, for the right reasons,then let due process occur. But I will again point out the very telling statement Bill Bennett made in an interview with the Globe and Mail: 

bennettSiteC

And I call now on the new federal government and environment minister to reveal the reasons why the former government claimed cabinet privilege  when it came to their decision on Site C: http://www.alaskahighwaynews.ca/regional-news/site-c/despite-cabinet-secrecy-federal-decision-on-site-c-ok-judge-rules-1.2045577

In the written decision against the PVLA, Judge Michael Manson said the decision by the federal government was justified—even though the government chose not to reveal its reasoning behind the decision to the courts.

In the decision, lawyers for the PVLA argued the federal cabinet only addressed the consultation process with Aboriginal groups and their social interests in their government in council (GIC) order, without also addressing the economic value or including a cumulative effects analysis of the project.

Lawyers argued the government would need to consider whether or not the project was needed for power, and whether or not the project was financially justified—which the group believed the government did not consider.

BC Hydro disagreed, arguing the federal cabinet indeed reflected and considered the overall question of costs, need for, and benefits of Site C.

Manson agreed.

“The concerns and interests of Aboriginal groups have been reasonably balanced with other societal interests including social, economic, policy and the broader public interest,” he wrote in his decision.

However, the full reasoning behind the decision was not made available to the courts.

Manson wrote that cabinet “claimed privilege” to keep the matter private. This complicated his review of the reasons for the decisions, he noted.

“(The federal cabinet) could have chosen to submit redacted versions before them, but decided not to,” he wrote.

Nevertheless, Manson found there was “no basis” that the decision was made without regarding environmental legislation, economic considerations, or that the decision itself was unreasonable.

“While the reasons provided by the GIC could have been better articulated and more transparent, they are within the reasonable boundaries and requirements for GIC reasons,” Manson wrote.

“The GIC must consider a wide range of considerations and information put before it. As a body comprised of elected officials, it is accountable to the electorate: the public itself.”

It’s unclear why government made the decision to claim privilege. Questions sent to Leona Aglukkaq—the federal environment minister at the time the decision was made, and a member of the cabinet in charge of making the decision— were not returned as of press time.

 

In the best interests of British Columbians concerned about rising Hydro bills, anything less is inexplicable. There is simply too much risk involved: economically,socially and environmentally.

 

Backposts:

http://lailayuile.com/2015/08/20/bc-hydro-says-halting-site-c-would-cost-taxpayers-500-million-not-building-it-at-all-will-save-us-over-8-billion-dollars/

http://lailayuile.com/2015/09/29/site-c-to-be-debated-in-bc-legislature-tomorrowrally-against-the-project-to-be-held-outside/

http://lailayuile.com/tag/site-c/

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: BC Hydro hasn’t made a convincing case for pushing costly dam onto taxpayers

Columnists Laila Yuile and Brent Stafford battle over the issues of the day. The winner of last week’s duel on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program was Laila with 71%.

This week’s topic:

Considering the results of the Joint Review Panel report on BC Hydro’s Site C dam, should government approve the project?

A police officer I know once told me that if two people saw the same crime in progress from beginning to end, he would still likely get two different stories from the witness statements.

Likewise, instead of the “clear path to a green light” for the Site C dam that Brent believes the Joint Review Panel report provides, after reading it in full, I see nothing but a giant red light.

There are several great concerns noted in the 471-page report, but one of several key points that should throw up red flags for all British Columbians is this: “The panel concludes that the proponent has not fully demonstrated the need for the project on the timetable set forth.”

The proponent is BC Hydro, a Crown corporation that seems to be used to further the BC Liberals’ political agenda more than it is used to provide affordable energy for British Columbians. The Site C proposal is a perfect example of this.

Read Brent Stafford’s column

Over the years, the public has been presented with a changing list of justifications for the Site C proposal. From powering homes in British Columbia, to being essential to power LNG development in the province — a Premier Christy Clark favourite — to exporting power to drought-stricken California, the reasons seem to keep changing.

The questions keep mounting as to why the BC Liberals and BC Hydro are pushing this proposal so hard on a public already burdened by rising hydro costs….

READ the rest of this weeks column, comment and vote at : http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2014/05/11/bc-hydro-hasnt-made-a-convincing-case-for-pushing-costly-dam-onto-taxpayers

*** You can read the entire study I have referenced in this column here, in PDF format : dam cost overruns

This week’s column for 24Hrs Vancouver: BC Hydro hasn’t proved its case Site C is even needed

A very late posting of my Monday column this week,as unexpected events last weekend required my attention elsewhere, and delayed other posts here on my site as well.

This week, Brent and I debated this question:  Do the benefits of BC Hydro’s Site C dam outweigh the impacts?

Brent wrote first, and here is my response:

What isn’t said about a hot topic is often more telling than what is.

The debate topic this week assumes there are benefits to the Site C dam project in the first place — something currently under scrutiny by critics and rightly so. The bigger question about the Site C proposal is whether we even need it or not, and what is the real motivation behind the project. The public has been told it’s to power liquefied natural gas plants, to keep BC Hydro rates low, and the province’s future power needs. So which one of these is it?

In an interview with the Globe and Mail recently, even Energy Minister Bill Bennett expressed his lack of confidence in the project, referring to the financial and regulatory hurdles the project faces, both of which are significant.

See Brent Stafford’s column

The costs of the project are astronomical, estimated in 2011 as $7.9 billion. The environmental impacts are far greater than just what Brent focuses on with the impact on land in the Agricultural Land Reserve in the Peace River.

Not only will wildlife habitat be lost forever, there will be an irreparable impact on First Nations in the area. They will lose traditional hunting and fishing grounds, as well as identified archeological sites along the riverbanks.

As a taxpayer in British Columbia, it’s important to me that the justification for the project is verified independently of BC Hydro’s claims to ensure the best interests of citizens are being served. Sadly, that isn’t going to happen since the Liberal government has exempted the proposal from the independent oversight of the B.C. Utilities Commission. The commission would have reviewed the cost estimates for accuracy, as well as the justifications for the project itself.

This failure to allow an independent review of the project leaves British Columbians relying on information that hasn’t been confirmed. The results of a report released by the joint federal-provincial environmental review panel for the proposal gives reason to doubt BC Hydro’s information.

The panel reported a number of discrepancies and inconsistencies in the reports provided by BC Hydro, including a failure to provide information about the impact on First Nations activities, among other vital information. That’s alarming on many levels — what would a review of their financial information show us?

Read the rest of this weeks column and vote, here: http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2013/12/01/bc-hydro-hasnt-proved-its-case-project-is-even-needed

My update on the NDP post will be up later this morning, barring further unforeseen events.

A must read. Right now.

The reactions to my last post on the NDP internal politics are astounding. I’ll be updating that story soon, but our good friend North Van Grumps has a great post up that is a must read. If you don’t make his blog a regular stop, you should, because the BC Liberals sure do.

Here is a primer:

“The worst is yet to come.   BC Energy Minister, Core Reviewer, Bill Bennett has not given British Columbians the true goods on our future debt because he and his lying cohorts continue to use creative bookkeeping to stage Balance Budgets, which they aren’t.

The 2013 silent ballot box majority are IDIOTS!  Have been IDIOTS for the past twelve years.  Idiots because they failed to seek out this graph on our Blog on September 12, 2012

The graphs?  They only tell half of the problem.   It’s the numbers, bottom line, bottom of this page, that shows the data behind the graphs.  A Ten Billion Debt over ONE YEAR…”

Now, go read the rest at:
http://blogborgcollective.blogspot.ca/2013/11/ten-billion-dollars-in-debt-in-one-year.html

And, if you want to check out something else quite stunning in the opposite direction, check out this story from my colleague at 24Hrs Vancouver, Jeremy Nuttall :

“Donations for a campaign billed as a fight against hydro hikes will instead be going straight into the BC NDP’s war chest, according to the party’s new president.

After a 28% BC Hydro rate increase over five years was announced Tuesday, the BC NDP sent out an email asking for donations to help fight the increases.

“We need your help to fight back against these increases,” the release read. “A hard-hitting campaign to fight to stop these increases can only happen with your financial support. Let’s raise $25,000 over the next five days to ramp up the fight.”

The email then asks whether the reader can donate $3 to the cause.

Freshly minted NDP president Craig Keating told 24 hours the drive has resulted in people who’d never previously donated to the party giving money, but he said the funds would not be going strictly to fight the increases.”

Check out the rest of this story, including comment from Integrity BC at http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2013/11/27/ndp-power-hike-campaign-questioned

If this is indicative of how the BCNDP plan to move forward, it’s not sending a very good message. What do you think about this fundraising pitch?

And so the games begin… ” Site C Clean Energy Project – Joint Agreement for environmental assessment issued “

Site C Clean Energy Project – Joint Agreement Issued

http://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/news_releases_2009-2013/2012ENV0001-000144.htm

 OTTAWA – The Honourable Peter Kent, federal Minister of the Environment and the Honourable Terry Lake, British Columbia Minister of the Environment, announced today that a Joint Agreement has been signed for the co-operative environmental assessment, including a review by a joint panel, of the Site C Clean Energy Project in British Columbia.

 The final agreement specifies the process for conducting the review, outlines the joint review panel terms of reference and identifies the timelines associated with key steps of the co-operative process.

 Following a 30-day public consultation period held in October 2011, comments received by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office were considered, and the agreement was finalized.

 To view the final agreement or to obtain more information on this project, consult the Canadian Environmental Assessment Registry at www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca , reference number 11-05-63919 or the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office web site at: www.eao.gov.bc.ca

 Next Steps:

The next steps in the review process include public consultation on the draft guidelines for the environmental impact statement (EIS) to be held in the spring of 2012. The guidelines provide direction to the proponent and identify the information that will be required in the EIS.

Background:

BC Hydro and Power Authority proposes to construct and operate a dam and 1,100-megawatt hydroelectric generating station on the Peace River in northeastern B.C.  The proposed project would be the third in a series of dams on the B.C. portion of the Peace River. The project components are an earthfill dam 1,050 metres long and 60 metres high, an 1,100-megawatt generating station and associated structures, an 83-km long reservoir, realignment of four sections of Highway 29 and two 77-km transmission lines along an existing transmission line right-of-way connecting Site C to the existing provincial power grid.

 The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency administers the federal environmental assessment process, which identifies the environmental effects of proposed projects and measures to address those effects in support of sustainable development.

 The British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office manages the provincial environmental assessment process, which examines major projects for potential environmental, economic, social, heritage and health effects that may occur during the lifecycle of a project and identifies strategies to prevent or reduce potential adverse effects.

( And of course… this background that they left out: http://lailayuile.com/2012/02/09/stupid-is-as-stupid-does-forrest-gump/)

Working on the Port Mann post, which is taking longer because of the sheer volume of material to cover- hope to have it up tonight or tomorrow. – LY.

All I want for Christmas is a municipal auditor just like John Doyle…

I’ve been a very big fan of  provincial Auditor General John Doyle, ever since I first started looking into the various P3 projects in the province. Even then, he appeared to me to be one man with unbroken integrity, and not at all afraid to wade deeply where none had gone before to get at the heart of the often questionable Liberal method of accounting. He replied to every email of mine with thoughtful,informative answers,and I felt secure that Mr. Doyle would eventually uncover every detail needing to be uncovered.

He continues to impress by leaps and bounds and every British Columbian should be sending the man a Christmas card of thanks this year for looking out for all of us. Vaughn Palmers column in the Sun today tells us why…and the news is startling.

 Not often do accountants engage in the bookkeeping equivalent of hand-to-hand combat.

But there was some of that at a meeting of the public accounts committee of the legislature one day last week, as BC Hydro’s chief financial officer and acting CEO Charles Reid squared off against Auditor-General John Doyle.

The occasion was supplied by the committee review of Doyle’s recent report on Hydro’s growing practice of defer-ring current expenses to future years.

The flashpoint was provided by Doyle’s bald assertion that although every penny of the soon-to-be-$5-billion balance in the 27-and-count-ing deferral accounts will have to be repaid, neither Hydro nor the government has any detectable plan to do so.

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/Auditor+finds+billion+snake+dilemma+Hydro+hard+swallow/5788297/story.html#ixzz1fDE39b77