A new friend who is rapidly becoming educated in the ways of government after having jumped into the deep end of the convoluted pool of BC politics, asked me a question I couldn’t answer recently:
“Laila, I have to believe that when people enter politics, it is with a good heart and good intention to make things better for everyone. But what I’ve seen now… some of these decisions are clearly not in the public’s best interests! Tell me, how do some of these politicians sleep at night?”
I honestly don’t know the answer to that.
It’s been said many times that power corrupts. That for some, power blinds reason, blinds any altruistic intention and that money is the soothing balm that heals regrets or bad feelings. And when I look at Energy Minister Bill Bennett I wonder if there was a time he was in this to serve the public, or if he just walked in with a zest for power,privilege and the self-centered righteous attitude he has displayed for years.
Case in point-again-his recent comments in response to the highly educated and well researched call by the Royal Society of Canada, to suspend the Site C dam.
You can read their letter, in full, here: https://rsc-src.ca/sites/default/files/pdf/PM_Trudeau_19.05.2016.pdf but they too, call out the BC government for circumventing process in this approval.
The three-person Joint Review Panel, established by the two levels of government, appears to have been streamlined in order to expedite review of the Site C project; it had to work under a short time frame with limited resources and powers, and was consequently challenged in providing a thorough and comprehensive review of the project. Even then, the Joint Review Panel identified a number of environmental issues that beg further consideration under the federal Environmental Assessment Act and Clean Energy Act. It is also curious why a project of this scope and nature was not assessed by the British Columbia Utilities Commission. That should have been a priority. Why did the BC legislature pass an act to prevent this essential review? This failure to subject the project to rigorous scrutiny raises serious questions about whether the project should proceed until such time as a more thorough review is undertaken.Equally troubling is the fact that the Site C Project is proceeding even though there are outstanding First Nations treaty and Aboriginal rights to be resolved. Past projects often neglected or ignored Aboriginal peoples and their concerns–with adverse and lingering consequences. Those days are supposed to be over. Both the federal and British Columbian governments have made a public and solemn commitment not only to consult Aboriginal peoples in a meaningful and substantive way, but also recognize and address their fundamental rights and interests.Why, then, were these rights and interests apparently not considered during the Joint Panel Review, and if they were, where is that part of the report? And why is construction underway when these matters are still to be addressed by the courts in two First Nations cases?
Excellent,educated and researched questions with no answers. Ones that are in the publics best interests and ones that every single British Columbian should be asking.
And Energy Minister Bill Bennett’s response?
To the Alaska Highway News:
…”Energy Minister Bill Bennett said the Royal Society’s claims that BC Hydro did not do its homework on the project are “wrong.”
“There are 30,000 pages of documents involved with the environmental assessment done by the joint (review) panel. 30,000 pages. Did they read all of them?” he asked. “To suggest things like agriculture and First Nations and environmental impacts were not understood, with all due respect, it sounds more political than it does academic.”
“I’m not saying I’m proud of everything that relates to First Nations issues, but in terms of the environmental impact, in terms of whether B.C. needs the energy, in terms of whether this is going to provide the cheapest cleanest energy for the next 100 years after it’s built, I have no doubts about those things.”
B.C. Energy Minister Bill Bennett said the critics are wrong to suggest the review was less than robust, noting that the joint review panel considered 29,000 pages of evidence. “I don’t agree that there was anything defective about the Site C joint panel process,” he said.
The hydroelectric project will deliver the lowest-cost, cleanest power available, the minister said, although he conceded it would have adverse environmental impacts downstream.
In the first article Bennett is confidant everything was done right. In the second, no doubt there are adverse environmental impacts downstream.
And in both interviews he deliberately fails to address the egregious manner in which the BC government exempted Site C from the BC Utilities Commission oversight, or the failure to address First Nations concerns currently before the courts. It is a breach of public trust if not by oath in which he vows to be loyal only to the Crown, but by public perception of being an elected official.
This is a multi billion dollar contract being paid for on the public dime. Much like the dam disaster known as Muskrat Falls in Newfoundland/Labrador that is now in the midst of a lawsuit involving contractors, that is putting the entire province in financial risk.
There is no defense for the BC government exempting such a massive financial venture to the regulatory process created by government itself. None. And let me show you why…again.
I’ve been closely reporting on the application for long overdue and critical repairs to the WAC Bennett Dam that were identified many years ago and monitored… instead of being fixed for years as erosion continued.
It is my contention that BC Hydro needs to be brought back into government instead of being a crown corporation largely unaccountable thanks to the Liberal government.
BC Hydro recently presented their final argument to the BC Utilities Commission for those repairs. And their argument is a must read. For me, it gives great insight into how superficial First Nations consultations really are and provides a glaring reason why the BC government exempted Site C from such intense scrutiny.
It never would have survived. Ever. Because as you will see if you have read my past posts on the WAC Bennett Dam repair application, the Commission asks hard questions. And if it is not satisfied, it asks for more information because that is the duty it has been deemed with. This is the final argument.
Highlights? The portion begging for repairs to be done now…in 2016.. that were identified more than 4 years ago to be of urgent need….
” …the need for this project at this time.” At this time? It was identified many years ago that these repairs were urgent.The consequences of a dam failure are extreme and include loss of life, and there have already been fracking caused earthquakes in the immediate area and one high wind event this year.
If I were a resident downstream from this dam, I would be asking the Fort St. John mayor, council and Peace River MLA’s, why these critical dam repairs were not prioritized before building a new ‘legacy’ dam we don’t even need…
Amazing what happens when an election is coming.Why -considering what happened with Mt.Polley and what the public knows now, which was a surprise to Minister in Charge Bill Bennett – this was suddenly a priority last fall, should be under full review.
But breaking news, this is the BC Utilities Commission ruling that came in late Friday.
They have approved the repairs and rightly so…why BC Hydro played a years long risk game with those downstream is beyond me… with requirements for financial reporting.
Herein lies a big barrel of worms for BC Hydro, the BC government and the new Federal government lead by the federal Liberals. The justifications BC Hydro uses for moving ahead without regard for legal cases on Site C before the courts is in direct opposition to the federal governments often announced and repeated intent for reconciliation with First Nations in Canada. In fact it succinctly puts the needs ( and wants IMHO) of the Crown, above those of First Nations in British Columbia.
Not only that, the justifications of BC Hydro, Energy Minister Bill Bennett and Premier Clark- who vowed to get past the point of no return on Site C-have repeatedly been left unchallenged in the mainstream media.The only Force of No in this province is the BC Liberal party, who refuses to submit the biggest project in our history, to the BC utilities Commission as required previously by law… until they exempted it. No due process, No review, No problem.
Much like they recently issued an order in council to get around the court ruling on environmental assessments for Northern Gateway and other pipeline projects,some of which have former staff of the premier currently working for them...http://www.straight.com/news/703321/christy-clark-cabinet-issues-order-council-get-around-court-ruling-environmental
You see why political newbies ask how people sleep at night?
When the rules the government created no longer work for them, they change them.
You and I do not share the same privilege.We have no recourse to arbitrarily change the rules or laws of this land and would end up incarcerated if we tried.
BC Hydro is still suing those who stood up to this governments steamroller tactics in a SLAPP like suit that includes an un-named John Doe and Jane Doe which allows them to add anyone they like at any point, to try and silence them. http://www.desmog.ca/2016/05/24/bc-hydro-suing-opponents-site-c-dam-SLAPP-suit-legal-experts-say
Why? Is it not enough they hold the power to take land and heritage away? Is is not enough that very few news articles question or call out elected government officials statements?
Must they crush any semblance of opposition entirely? With the aid of a new federal government that campaigned on the promise of true reconciliation and rights, yet still defends armed vehicle sales to Saudi Arabia and complete ignorance of the wrongness of Site C on every single level that matters….
And so I appeal to you all again, for the umpteenth time, to oppose this. To email or write your MLA, your mayor, your federal MP. Contractors have cleared and cut so many acres of land, years ahead of what is needed, in order to press this point. Those trees can be replanted and regrown. A multi-billion dollar mistake? Not so easily corrected as Newfoundland is finding out.
The only power that is left does not just reside with government, it resides with you. Your letters, your emails, your calls. To Premier Clark,to Bill Bennett, to Justin Trudeau and Catherine McKenna. Every legal method within your means to halt this project is required. Looking at the BCUC review of the WAC Bennett Dam, its clear there is no way they would have approved Site C because it is not in the best interests of British Columbians.
It never was. This was never about good policy, and Clark made it clear this is about her legacy.
Frankly, that legacy is one to be questioned. Because some people really don’t care what direction they are going, as long as they are in the drivers seat.