Environment Minister George Heyman, Premier John Horgan and Energy Minister Michelle Mungall announce decision to proceed with construction of the Site C dam, B.C. legislature library, Dec. 11, 2017. (Ragnar Haagen/Black Press)

News Views: Willing to pay

Premier John Horgan criticized the previous B.C. Liberals for mismanaging the project

The new B.C. NDP government will continue building the Site C dam, choosing to finish the contentious project started by the previous Liberal regime rather than halting mid-construction.

The B.C. NDP cabinet had struggled with the decision, with the project two years in and facing a cost of $4 billion to shut down construction of the third dam on the Peace River and put the site back the way it was.

After hearing from experts for weeks, the government faced an estimate that B.C. Hydro rates are already expected to rise 30 per cent over the next 10 years.

If the dam was halted, rates could have gone up another 12 per cent by 2020 to pay the cost of Site C.

Government officials expect the additional rate increase to be 6.5 per cent when it goes into service in 2024.

B.C. Hydro would likely apply to the B.C. Utilities Commission to “smooth” that rate increase, raising it in smaller steps to pay for the dam.

Premier John Horgan criticized the previous B.C. Liberals for mismanaging the project and leaving his NDP government with little choice.

Canceling the dam now would add billions to the province’s debt, he said, putting at risk the ability to deliver housing, child care, schools and hospitals.

It’s not a price the government was willing to pay.

Nor should it.

B.C. Liberal finance critic Tracy Redies, a former B.C. Hydro board member, said the NDP’s review confirmed that with projected growth in electricity demand, B.C. will need the equivalent of nine Site C dams by 2050.

Termination would have meant a $4 billion write-off and a large increase in Hydro rates, with nothing to show for it but growing demand.

– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News

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