“The progress of the rivers to the ocean is not so rapid as that of man to error.” ~ Voltaire
A wise and good friend once said here: “Some times the sheer indignity of the will of a government imposed on people leaves me in a state of tongue-tied rage, unable to even put voice to the injustice served up…”
Hence my feeling since the decision on Site C was announced, and flu didn’t help matters. The flood of emotion that resulted completely caught me off guard and was unexpected, much as the decision to proceed was still unexpected despite the niggling misgivings I have had since Horgan refused to order tools down. There is so much to say and I’m just going to let the words flow as they come,in no particular order. But let me start with something that’s been weighing heavily the last few days.
From the Globe and Mail:
Premier John Horgan said he is not bound to uphold his commitments to reconciliation with British Columbia’s First Nations in the case of the Site C dam, saying the $10.7-billion dam his cabinet has decided to complete is not really his project.
“It’s my view that activities that began before I was sworn in as Premier are out of my control,” Mr. Horgan said in an interview on Tuesday. “In the case of Site C, I really have to say it is 25-per-cent done. It’s not like I’m going to [start] it – I’m going to finish it.”
The hydroelectric project on B.C.’s Peace River faces multiple court challenges from Indigenous communities that argue the completion of the dam – which will result in the flooding and destruction of 5,550 hectares of land within the traditional territory of Treaty 8 First Nations – will infringe on their aboriginal rights.
Six aboriginal bands have signed benefit agreements with BC Hydro around the project. However, Mr. Horgan said some of those bands are also displeased that Site C is going ahead: “They are not happy,” he said.
This just blew my mind. It left me feeling sick.
Clark ran roughshod over First Nations opposition or concerns to Site C and other projects, calling critics a rag-tag group of Forces of No who say no to everything. After 16 long years it is a pleasure to see the BC Liberals sit in opposition trying to appear indignant at how the Greens and NDP are operating, when they have zero credibility on every single file or issue they critique, particularly when it comes to Site C.
They refused to submit it to the BCUC and the people of BC deserved to have due process done however expedited. Clark ignored repeated calls even from the UBCM. Horgan, Mungall et al have rightly used this point over and over again that the BCUC review SHOULD have been done before the project was started, so his government was trying to make that right.
But suddenly when it comes to fixing how Clark stomped on Treaty rights under UNDRIP, it’s not his project? He’s just the guy finishing it, not starting it, so reconciliation doesn’t apply here?
I felt ashamed and I wondered if he truly understood how that was going to sound… because there is no explaining this separation of what was his to rectify and what was not, to friends directly impacted…because I have learned more about colonization and its lasting trauma through generations by covering Site C than in everything I have read…because I actually sat in the same courtroom as Yvonne Tupper and Grand Chief Stewart Philip and saw their reactions when BC Hydro won the case to have the camp at Rocky Mountain Fort removed…because meeting Helen Knott and reading her heart-wrenching,stark and sometimes painful posts on her relationship with the river, through her people and her people’s history which is directly connected to the river… tells me that we are still very much trampling on Treaty rights as much as some would prefer to pretend we are not. And as much as we say there is commitment to reconciliation, saying it now comes with conditions… very much puts a stain on the intent of the commitment itself.
Which leads me to a couple of points that need to be clear.
Two Treaty 8 nations, Prophet River and West Moberly, will be seeking an injunction and are launching an infringement suit. https://www.sagelegal.ca/news-blog-1/2017/12/11/press-release-west-moberly-and-prophet-river-first-nations-to-seek-injunction-launch-site-c-infringement-action They are directly impacted by the footprint of the dam.
Other nations have signed benefit agreements but still oppose the dam,making clear that those agreements do not mean consent. It has been said that some signed agreements preventing them from directly speaking out against the project.
One nation, McLeod Lake band, is hailing the dam as a Christmas present that Horgan gave them, because of not only the economic boon they say it will bring them, but a massive land gift and a final settlement in the nine figures….but their nation is 250km away from the dam and not directly impacted. The settlement makes economic restitution for the destruction the WAC Bennett wreaked on their territory more than the minimal impact of Site C itself.
Oh,how the irony of making restitution with one nation for past wrongs while deciding to do it again with two other nations now, is stark. Just last summer BC Hydro opened an exhibit acknowledging the dark past associated with the WAC Bennett dam:
West Moberly First Nations Chief Roland Wilson said while BC Hydro may be apologizing for how First Nations were impacted during the W.A.C. Bennett project, “they are building Site C and doing it again.”
“There’s nothing clean about a large-scale hydroelectric dam and destroying the last remaining 80 kilometres of river valley that we have on the Peace River,” he said.
“There’s an old adage, if you’re really sorry, stop saying sorry. Stop doing it. It doesn’t mean anything if you just keep doing it.”
The decision has created new divisions between nations now. It has made me examine how I perpetuated colonial attitudes – I focused on the economic risks of the project in most of my posts for the greater good,failing completely to convey how this project impacts a people still strongly dependent on and connected to the land. And for that I am sorry. When you think you are thinking of the bigger picture but suddenly see your writing leaves out an entire peoples history, it’s a failure. That’s how I feel.
To me, the project still doesn’t make sense, nor do the reasons it is being continued. Especially after this:
The NDP said it could not stop the dam, because doing so would mean a large rate increase in two years, put the credit rating at risk and mean other programs they promised could not be rolled out. We all know how much needs to be done and repaired in BC after 16 years of slice and dice policy under the BC Liberals, so while some called for Weaver to pull the plug on the GreenDP agreement, I didn’t and still don’t. An election would only put the Liberals back into power-never forget why they are not.
But many can’t understand this decision, when to discontinue and put it all firmly back right into the laps of Clark and the BC Liberals & showing BC how reckless their decisions to proceed without a review were would have been the final nail in their coffin. Their mess. Their mistake. Their dam.
Sarah Cox has done an excellent job here of detailing the discrepancy between what the NDP has stated and what other experts have said could have been done to cancel the dam: https://www.desmog.ca/2017/12/15/ndp-government-s-site-c-math-flunk-say-project-financing-experts
A former BC Hydro ceo has chimed in here: http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/op-ed/comment-site-c-continues-on-premier-s-faulty-arguments-1.23121222
Most compelling though, is the following link.
Robert McCullough has countered the letter David Eby sent out to his constituents and Rob Botterell, lawyer for the Peace Valley Environment Association & Peace Valley Landowner Association have asked the Auditor General to launch an examination of the decision because of the contradiction in statements:
The groups want Bellringer to determine if the NDP government had no alternative but to incur an immediate $3-billion to $4-billion charge on either B.C. Hydro ratepayers or B.C. taxpayers if it cancelled the dam.
Attorney General David Eby made this claim in a statement posted on his constituency website about the Site C dam approval.
“In contrast,” Eby stated, “we were advised that if we continued the project, even if it went significantly over budget, the accounting treatment of the completed project as an ‘asset’ would enable it to be repaid over 70 years by ratepayers with a significantly different impact on rates and public accounts.”
Eby’s claim was contradicted by Portland-based energy consultant Robert McCullough, a consultant to the two Peace Valley organizations.
McCullough maintained in a letter to Botterell and landowner Ken Boon that B.C. Utilities Commission reviewers were very clear how to account for sunk costs and reclamation costs.
“The analysis assumed a seventy-year amortization period for the sunk costs of $2.1 billion,” McCullough stated. “They also assumed a thirty-year amortization period for the reclamation costs.”
He added that the commission’s estimate of reclamation costs was “quite a bit higher” than the evidence suggested.
“Both BC Hydro and Deloitte forecasts costs in the $1 to $1.2 billion range,” he stated.
According to McCullough, Eby appears to believe that the $2.1 billion in sunk costs have been held in abeyance.
“This is a curious belief,” McCullough declared. “British Columbia has a continuous financing program designed to balance cash requirements and cash inflows. These needs drive the province’s issuance of bonds. The province has already spent the $2.1 billion dollars [sic] and the cash has been disbursed.”
Later in his response, McCullough wrote: “Mr. Eby has also raised a concern that Moody’s (the only bond rating firm that has expressed concerns about BC Hydro’s unusual finances) would react negatively to the recovery of the $2.1 billion. Regulatory recovery of the costs of termination is a very common practice in the utility business and is addressed in every utility’s annual report.
I would be remiss to leave out this excellent story too, on how the media failed British Columbians on Site C. https://www.desmog.ca/2017/12/12/how-media-failed-british-columbians-site-c-dam
Like many, I didn’t even really pay much attention until it was already approved and the Rocky Mtn Fort Camp contacted me. And therein lies how these things get this far. We don’t pay attention, even to what little coverage there is to issues that will change our province forever. There is little coverage to hold government to account. If the media had covered the BC legislature proceedings daily back then, as they do now under the NDP, perhaps we wouldn’t even be having this discussion right now. In fact I know we wouldn’t be.
I strongly hope for clarification on the accounting rationale govt is using as main reason for approval. But perhaps Helen Knott is correct when she states that she “knew from the place where I know things that the Site C dam would go ahead because man still needs to learn the hard way. Not heeding the prophecies that came forward about the inevitable collapse of these dams that came a long time before me and before many alive today, stories that came from the territory…..
I will always believe this dam is wrong for all the reasons mentioned above and the questions being asked are important ones… The geo-technical risks I have reported on with photos here often are the wild card and I not so secretly hope Mother Nature puts an end to it once and for all with a mighty rain and a massive north slope failure at the tension crack when no one is around. It could very well happen as history has demonstrated.
So what comes next?
Electoral reform. It’s perhaps how we can stop things like this from happening in the first place. Big money will band together to try and defeat it, just as the BC Liberals are already claiming the referendum is rigged. ( ask them how they vote to choose their leader though, why don’t you?) Please inform yourself of the facts, not the rhetoric and check out this site for a better understanding of why this matters https://fairvotingbc.com/join-the-campaign-for-fair-voting/why-voting-reform/
For now, I’ll be continuing work on a couple of books and focusing on family, so there will be a hiatus on blogging & social media – I have deactivated my twitter account for now because I have very little faith left in political process and I’m afraid I will lose what’s left completely if I don’t. It’s incredibly disheartening. Be well and keep fighting.