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Bear Flat Dispatch: John Horgan and ‘Site C Sucks’

We see reports lately of world leaders visiting Kiev or other parts of war-torn Ukraine, and they are obviously kept secret beforehand for good reason. For our Premier to do the same with Fort St. John and Site C just seems weird and disrespectful.
Horgan-Boons-SiteC
Ken Boon: " I can’t remember exactly how it came to be, but Horgan ended up stopping briefly at our place at Bear Flat while on a road trip. It just so happened that the sign had been taken down for a fresh paint job and was handy in the yard, and he gladly agreed to the photos being taken."

Premier John Horgan recently came to visit the Site C project for the first time. It seems that plans for his trip were kept secret until revealed by the Alaska Highway News the day before. It was then reported that the premier would not be doing any media while up here. We see reports lately of world leaders visiting Kiev or other parts of war-torn Ukraine, and they are obviously kept secret beforehand for good reason. For our Premier to do the same with Fort St. John and Site C just seems weird and disrespectful.

Columnist Vaughn Palmer with the Vancouver Sun has recently enjoyed reporting that the last time Horgan was up here he posed for photographs with some locals by a “SITE C SUCKS’ sign. That photo op took place in the fall of 2012 when he was the Energy Critic for the NDP, and Adrian Dix was party leader (not Horgan as reported by Palmer). I can’t remember exactly how it came to be, but Horgan ended up stopping briefly at our place at Bear Flat while on a road trip. It just so happened that the sign had been taken down for a fresh paint job and was handy in the yard, and he gladly agreed to the photos being taken. In fact, I remember him telling how he had taken a picture of our sign when it was beside the highway on an earlier trip, and that he had posted it to his social media.

At that time while in opposition, the NDP had a pretty strong position of opposing Site C while the Liberals under Christy Clark were rubber stamping and checking the necessary boxes needed to start building. However, leading up to the May 2013 election, the polls had Christy and the Liberals behind and it looked like B.C. would end up with an NDP government. I remember mentioning that to Horgan while he was here, and his reply was “Don’t underestimate the NDP’s ability to screw things up.” His comment brought a chuckle, but it turned out to be rather prophetic. Christy was returned to power with a majority government and did everything possible to get Site C “past the point of no return” before losing the 2017 election.

Horgan mentioned one more thing while here on his visit that seemed prophetic. While talking about energy projects in general, and Site C specifically, he voiced a concern about the appearance of the NDP being opposed to all projects. That was somewhat of a regular accusation by the Liberals at the time that the NDP were a little sensitive to. Looking back, I believe that attitude has influenced Horgan as Premier on a number of occasions, and especially his decision to proceed with Site C even after the damning report from the BCUC in 2017.

While most of the NDP caucus was truly opposed to Site C, I don’t really believe John Horgan ever was. He might have sounded that way while in opposition, but more than anything he is a politician well versed in opposing whatever it was the government was doing. That is the dysfunctional ‘First Past the Post’ combined with big party politics system we cling to. However, once in power, it was Horgan and his inner circle that made a political decision to keep the project going. It is still amazing to me how he strong-armed his Cabinet and MLAs to fall in line.

The fallout from his decision now simply gets worse every year. Currently, the project has doubled in price, is one year behind schedule, and has continuing geotechnical problems. Even if everything goes “well” from here on, it will produce horribly overpriced power that will burden future ratepayers with debt. Worse yet is the environmental damage done at a time when we knew better, and when better options were available. So yes, Site C “Still” Sucks.

While on the radio program “Mornings with Simi” on May 13, Vaughn Palmer spoke at length about the geotechnical problems and the expensive “fix” that Horgan apparently did not discuss with BCH while up here, and he ended his interview with: “I’m joking to people Simi that I am going to go to the official opening, but I am going to stand upstream.” 

He may have said that in jest, but perhaps that speaks to the worst legacy yet to come from Site C.


Ken Boon lives and writes at Bear Flat.

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