Even the Raging Grannies couldn’t stop the Site C dam.
The Grannies were in Maple Ridge on Friday, singing at the office of Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Lisa Beare, who is a cabinet minister and part of the decision-making process on the controversial dam in Northern B.C.
The Grannies were belting out their latest political song to the tune of Shout, by the 1980s rock band Tears for Fears.
“This is a dam we can do without, Hor-gan,” they raged.
Beare was not at her office.
But by Monday, Premier John Horgan announced his government’s decision to proceed with flooding 5,500 hectares of the Peace River Valley, displacing farmland and submerging First Nations land, in the construction of the $10.7 billion project.
It was a done deal, Green Party representatives are now accusing.
“People are concerned that construction was still going on while the review was happening,” said Mike Gildersleeve, who has run for the Green Party in Maple Ridge three times in provincial elections and once in a federal campaign.
Horgan’s NDP had put the project to a review by the B.C. Utilities Commission, which determined the province would be left with a $4 billion debt, with nothing to show for it, by halting the project at this stage.
“It really felt like a betrayal,” Gildersleeve said of the decision. “Many of us who voted Green and NDP did not vote for Site C. We did not vote for the status quo. We did not vote for trampling on aboriginal rights,” he added.
“Our hopes were raised, and now they are dashed.”
The Peace was dammed first in the 1960s with the W.A.C. Bennett Dam, again in the 1980s with the Peace Canyon Dam, and now this dam on “the last free-running section of the Peace River.”
Gildersleeve said the damage is not limited to the Peace, because even the estuaries of its feeder creeks will flood as water levels rise.
Gildersleeve echoed the words of Grand Chief Phillip Stewart, of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs: “This is doing irreparable harm to the NDP brand.”
Building the dam over First Nations objections “colonizing behaviour,” Gildersleeve said.
“At some point we’ve got to shift gears here. We’ve got to do things differently.”
Beare said the decision became obvious to cabinet. The Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Beare said cabinet made the decision after consulting experts, the NDP caucus and deliberating for nine hours.
“We came to a very difficult decision in the end,” she said.
“Many people felt very strongly about this … but it all boiled down to what a $4 billion debt would do to our books.”
Beare said former Liberal Premier Christy Clark made good on a pledge to make sure an incoming government could not scrap the dam project without wasting billions.
“She made a promise to push this past the point of no return,” she said. “But it is certainly not a project we would have started.”
Beare said government will create a new food security fund, a $20 million agriculture compensation fund to offset lost farm sales in the area, and will work to increase the number of apprenticeships and First Nations hires on the construction site.
She said the NDP is staying true to its values of supporting families, and “keeping life affordable,” and many government initiatives, such as transportation projects, would not be possible if it incurred the massive $4 billion debt.
Beare called the decision “a clear choice.”