Peace River South MLA Blair Lekstrom would be the first to admit you can't make everyone happy, and with Monday's announcement that Stage 3 of Site C Dam's five stages would commence, the list of people unhappy with his B.C. Liberals got a little longer.
Farmers, native groups, and environmentalist were quick to condemn the decision to commence with a two-year regulatory review of the estimated $6.6 billion project, but Lekstrom who as minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources was a big part of the decision, feels this is the best course of action and will live with the consequences.
"There's, I think, probably always people upset about virtually everything in the world," said Lekstrom, adding the dam would be the most cost effective form of green electricity the province can secure.
He said he believes most of the issues concerning it are built off of misinformation.
"What I find is people, if they have a concern, traditionally it's on misinformation. People can't be opposed to every form when in fact we need additional electricity, so we try and find the proper balance," he said.
When the mega-project was revisited in past decades, the governments of the time decided a little conservation could nullify the need for a new dam. The BC Liberals will continue encouraging conservation through projects like LiveSmart BC rebates, but Lekstrom said this will not be enough to satisfy energy needs over the next 20 years.
"As we look to the energy needs of the future of British Columbia I think it is quite evident that we need to produce more electricity to meet our own demand," he said. "Expectations are our electricity needs in the next 20 years will grow between 20 and 40 per cent. You look at what options you have and we are very fortunate in British Columbia to have a diversity of options and our large hydro is obviously one of the foundations to our stability here in the province."
A common complaint about any new B.C. energy project is the fact the province is already exporting energy to the U.S. Some Site C opponents feel the new source is a sacrifice, taken on by B.C. residents, in order to satisfy the needs of places such as California.
"It's very confusing for people when you talk about us exporting power, but we're a net importer. If we stopped importing power and exporting power tomorrow we would be 11 per cent shy of the electricity we need to meet our local demands here in British Columbia," Lekstrom said. "It's sad in a resource-rich province like British Columbia that we actually import electricity."
Farmington's Nick Parsons has been one of the more vocal and active opponents of the Site C Dam. Last summer he drove his combine to Lekstrom's constituency office, then to his campaign office, as the provincial election was taking place, where he argued with Lekstrom, then on to the W.A.C. Bennett Dam in order to raise awareness about the issue. "It's almost like it's the Peace Reservoir Country not the Peace River Country," Parsons said on Wednesday. Parsons also joined a group of like-minded farmers and planted crops in the Peace River Valley, producing 26.2 tonnes of seed oats from 20 acres. They called the project "Seeds of Hope" and used it to showcase the area's agricultural potential, and unique microclimate where it's possible to grow produce normally reserved for farms further south. Profits from the crop were later donated to the Salvation Army's overseas food aid program.Parsons admits the Seeds of Hope were a little trampled after Monday's announcement, but he would continue his efforts to convince the government the valley is best left for farming. "I don't think Campbell (Premier Gordon Campbell), his government, or Blair Lekstrom know what food is, or are very concerned about it for the future," said the career farmer, adding farm land is not as prevalent as people might think. "I know the value of good land. I've been a farmer all my life and that land is not everywhere."The provincial government has explained the need for energy in the next two to three decades, but Parsons says it doesn't realize food will eventually be even more important."It won't be in our lifetime but someday, someone will say, 'if that hadn't been flooded we would have been self sufficient in food up here why didn't those people years ago consider what they were really doing?' " The insistence that the valley has some of the best agricultural land in the Peace begs the question about why it is not currently being farmed. Parsons said it's the uncertainty on the future of the area since the completion of the W.A.C Bennett Dam in 1968 has cast a shadow on the area.