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.
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
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:
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.
“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.