Securing federal funding for the $16-billion Site C dam found no support among election candidates running in Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies on Wednesday night.
Just prior to this year’s snap election call, the federal government announced $5.2 billion for the Muskrat Falls project in Newfoundland, which has faced delays and cost overruns since construction began in 2013. The project has since grown in cost from $7.4 billion to $13.1 billion, according to media reports, with the federal bailout meant to cover overruns and prevent a spike in rate increases when it goes into operation.
The Site C dam on the Peace River has faced similar setbacks, and has now doubled in cost from $8 billion when construction began in 2015, up to an estimated $16 billion when it is expected to be complete and put into service in 2025. There are similar concerns about the impact to hydro rates when the dam starts generating power, however, there was no desire to secure federal support for Site C during an All Candidates Forum in Fort St. John on Wednesday.
“No,” said Conservative candidate Bob Zimmer.
Both the NDP’s Cory Grizz Longley and the People’s Party Ryan Dyck agreed.
"The answer to this one is pretty simple: the federal government should not be paying for Site C,” said Longley. “We had this project pushed past the limit of no return by previous BC Liberal Christy Clark, and unfortunately the BC NDP is doing the best they can with this project that has been mismanaged from day one. There should be no more federal money or any extra money put into this project as far as the NDP is concerned."
Said Dyck, "I think taking a ridiculous project that has been horribly managed and way over cost, and giving them more finances is an unproductive way of handling mismanaged projects."
Liberal candidate Amir Alavi said the dam was a provincial matter, while Green Party candidate Catharine Kendall said Site C was “destined for some serious failure.”
“No federal funds should be injected into Site C,” said Kendall. “From visiting the area and seeing the new developments and feeling the tremors already instigated by the fracking in the area, we have severe instability that has been proven in the provincial reviews.”
Said Alavi, “I know that there has been a lot of conflict around this, not enough consultation with our brothers and sisters of indigenous people were made. But at the same time, I think if the question is should the federal government fund this, as long as the provincial government is not willing to clean up the mess, I don’t think so."
Maverick Party candidate Dave Jeffers was the only candidate who spoke favourably about Site C, calling it a “responsible way to generate energy.”
“You’ll find that a lot people that are advocating for the electric vehicles and a revamp, they’re also the ones fighting Site C. You can’t have it both ways,” Jeffers said.
“In terms of Site C, it’s a responsible way to generate energy but in the energy demand that’s coming up, that’s only part of the equation. The rest of it, and Cory is absolutely dead wrong in regards to oil and gas, the demand is actually going to go up and continue to go up over 40 years."