“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. ~Abbott Joseph Liebling, “Do You Belong in Journalism?” New Yorker, 4 May 1960

I could not have said it better myself.

You may or may not have heard, but today is World Press Freedom Day.  Started by the United Nations, the purpose of this day is to remind all of us of the importance of true freedom of the press. Many people in Canada still believe  that the press in our country is unadulterated, unbiased and unaffected by political or monetary influence, when in fact, the opposite is more often true.  As Abbott Joseph is quoted above, ” freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.” Powerful advertisement dollars are capable of swaying the editorial board of many a paper. Political inclinations show clearly in many papers coverage of  politicians locally.

However,nothing bothers me more than when a paper runs an op-ed( opinion editorial) – and then closes comments, thereby effectively silencing those in opposition to the presented opinion. Case in point, a recent piece run in the Campbell River Mirror in support of the site C dam proposal.


It’s clear that the author Tom, feels there is little to fret about in the flooding of such a massive area.  Many would not agree, and a reader of mine, Norm Zigarlick, is one gentleman whose response deserves the space that perhaps the mainstream press would not permit.

Eloquently and intelligently written, it is my contribution – and his – to World Press Freedom Day.  Thank you Norman. These are his words, his passion, and his view, in direct response to the op-ed link above.

” After reading Tom Fletcher’s column on Site C I really didn’t know where to begin a response but then I decided that  starting at the end would make at least as much sense as his article does.

First let me do what he did and mention some of my “credentials”.

At various times in my life I’ve lived and worked along the Peace all the way from West Moberly in BC to Lake Athabasca. For a time I flew airplanes for a living, with that one of the things I did was fight a grass fire on the Peace Athabasca Delta. Prior to WAC Bennett  this had been a vast wet land . By 1985  the area had dried up so much air tankers were being used to put out fires there. It is now a World Heritage Site and those that protect it hope that new dams don’t make it any drier.

I will admit right off that I did not gain the kind of knowledge one might get from picking carrots in Taylor.

On the other hand I’ve  had the opportunity to work  directly with First Nations in two provinces and one territory. I’ve also worked with biologists on projects that involved everything from Bison to Whooping Cranes to Polar Bears. I am not aboriginal, I have no land holdings anywhere near the Peace and I am certainly not anti business.  I grew up in a mining family. Early in my adult life I worked as a heavy equipment operator, some of that on very large projects. I’ve represented products in the energy business and  once even had the opportunity to work as an economic development officer. I’ve owned and operated a couple of businesses of my own. I am  now retired.

In his article Tom says “the engineering advantages are undeniable”. Really? What does that mean exactly?

I wonder did he even read BC Hydro’s 104 page document on the proposed Site C dam? If he has then perhaps he can explain why the estimated costs per megawatt ability at the time of construction, AFTER BEING ADJUSTED FOR INFLATION, is about 3 times higher for Site C than it was for the WAC Bennett. Keep in mind that one wasn’t exactly free either.

There are other serious issues he chooses to ignore completely.

For example; Site C is within site of the Taylor Bridge. In 1957 at the same location but with an earlier version of the bridge, it collapsed into the Peace. This was as a result of a landslide causing the bridge support piers to move.  As a former resident of Taylor I would expect Mr Fletcher knows this and would have at least given it a passing mention in his article.

Upstream where the Halfway River joins the Peace ( at what will be about the middle of the proposed reservoir) in May 1973 about 7 million cubic meters of  material hit the river in what is known as the Attachie Slide. That would be in the order of 14 million tons.

The pro-dam side often refers to this as sloughing which suggests a slow settling of a river bank that may cause a bit of muddy water. The reality is that in geological terms Attachie was described as a rapid slide that deposited 7 million cubic meters of clay, silt, trees and other debris into the river. It did so with enough force to push a wave  across a half kilometer of flood plain and up against the north wall of the valley. Try that trick with another 25 meters of water in the valley.

What is the undeniable advantage then? Good Surfing?

Tom when you decide to do some reading, check out the Vajon Dam in Italy. I believe it was 1963 when a landslide into a reservoir
pushed a wall of water OVER a dam and killed more than 2000 people. I don’t think they see the advantage in that one yet.

Has anyone told us what happens when 7 million cubic meters of  displaced water runs into a relatively low earth fill dam?

There  have been volumes written about instability in the walls of the Peace Valley. Some of it was even written by a guy named Fletcher. In some of  BC Hydro’s own information they say it is difficult to predict where these slides may occur. They also point out there have been many.

In the BC Hydro document they estimate the cost of the new dam to be 6.6 billion dollars they also say they will not know what actual costs will be until engineering assessments are complete. There is particular attention paid to stability issues at the dam site on the side they call the “left bank”.

If these are “undeniable engineering advantages” how come after 35 years of investigation BC Hydro has still not figured out how to take advantage of them??  Since the mid 1970’s this project has been investigated almost continuously. Prior to Campbell, 4 other Premiers, two from the left and two from the right, along with a host of energy and finance ministers took a pass on this. Why do you think that is? Did they just not recognize the engineering advantage?

As if the avoidance of stated geological concerns are not enough Tom also pretty well accuses land owners of somehow trying to scam Hydro into paying a higher price for their land. Given that his written assessment on farm issues appear suspiciously similar to comments made by Energy Minister Lekstrom on a radio program, don’t be to surprised if a couple of land owners don’t come close to calling him a ” hydro tame reporter”

Just for the record Tom, not everybody sees the dollar as the sole source of value. A lot of us don’t find it unusual that a family that has held farm land for nearly a century wants to keep it a while longer.

Tom goes on to say BC Hydro has been buying up land, well not exactly. Take a peek at some BC Hydro  financial info. I like the piece where it says “all BC Hydro debt is either held or guaranteed by the province” They haven’t bought anything yet Tom….they just borrowed it….they still owe you and a whole lot of other people about 7 billion dollars. Obviously they don’t have a problem with that, they want to add another 6 or 7 billion ( plus interest) to the pile.

Hey Tom! I have an idea, go offer land owners cash for that near worthless, aspen free land you refer to, bring your article, introduce yourself, see how it goes.

As for First Nations and reserves. How in hell can a guy who writes as if he is some sort of aboriginal issues missionary be so unaware of the history around treaties and traditional land. On the other hand maybe Tom is much better versed in these matters than the judges who have been working with them for the past 40 years. Perhaps we just don’t understand his much superior and well informed point of view.

I will admit it is amazing how much knowledge and wisdom Tom gained just from picking carrots in Taylor and canoeing the Pine River once upon a time.

All things considered I’m kind of glad I missed that trip.

Norm Zigarlick “

Impacts of proposed B.C. mega dam already felt

10 thoughts on ““Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. ~Abbott Joseph Liebling, “Do You Belong in Journalism?” New Yorker, 4 May 1960

  1. Great letter by Norm. Tom Fletcher is (for some unknown reason) widely published in the Newsgroup papers. He never fails to piss me off. I agree about the op/ed’s too. Colin Hansen is using the times colonist to get his message out for free today. Oddly, comments have been disabled!


  2. Tom Fletcher has done numerous PAB fed hatchet jobs and called it reporting i saw an anti paramedic union story last year that was not even near truth it is surprising hes such an expert on both Hydro and Union issues , maybe hes just mostly great at showing the brown streak on his nose after a Lib buys him dinner


  3. Sorry better now sems my isp was the issue , Fletcher is a hack wrote a fluff piece in Liberals favor about Paramedics strike last year and now hes an expert on dams up north too can anyone see PAB written on his resume.


  4. Tom Fletcher is nothing but a liberal hack job with a forum for his garbage. If anyone takes the time to take his fluff apart piece by piece, point by point…he never acknowledges you.

    If you agree with him however, you just might be acknowledged for your insightful wisdom in the comments section – when and if there is a comment section.

    Bah, just reading his stuff gives me indigestion.


  5. When they got there, the disaster was clear. The aircraft was totally destroyed with only a burned hulk left smoldering in a tree line that bordered a farm. The top RCMP investigators entered the smoking mess but could find no remains of anyone, including the Premier.

    They spotted a lone farmer plowing a field not too far away as if nothing at all happened. They hurried over to the man’s tractor.

    “Hank,” a police officer yelled, panting and out of breath. “Did you see this terrible accident happen?”

    “Yep. Sure did.” The farmer mumbled unconcernedly, cutting off his motor.

    “Do you realize that is the airplane of the Premier of BC?


    “Were there any survivors?”

    “Nope. They’s all kilt straight out,” the farmer answered. “I done buried them all myself. Took me most of the morning.”

    “Premier Campbell is dead?” the policeman shouted.

    “Well,” the farmer grumbled, restarting his tractor. “He kept a-saying he wasn’t… but you know what a liar he is.”


  6. I second or third the notion that Norm’s letter is excellent.

    In the age of the internet, at least until the corporations manage to wrest control, we all have our own press if like you, BC Mary, Ross and others we are willing to pay attention and use it.


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