There had been warning signs since the NDP formed provincial government in B.C. that they were reluctant to follow through with their campaign criticisms of the Site C mega-dam construction project and cancel it. Given the amount of support the party had gained from opponents of Site C, and its written commitment to upholding the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), Premier John Horgan's announcement that they would be going ahead was a harsh shock for many. There had been some hope that after 16 years of the pro-big business, anti-environment BC Liberal government that the NDP might make the right decision – but this has evaporated quickly.
“Let's get the science on the table, let's get the economics on the table, and let's end it once and for all.” - John Horgan, Paddle for the Peace rally against Site C Dam in 2010
“A foundational piece of this relationship is that both caucuses support the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action and the Tsilhqot’in Supreme Court decision.”
- 2017 “Confidence and Supply Agreement” between the BC Green Party and the BC NDP to form a provincial government.
The BC Hydro Site C Dam has been a failed project since the 1970's when it was proposed, opposed and shelved. The 60-meter-high Site C mega dam would cost over 10 billion dollars and flood over 100 km of river valley to create power BC Hydro says we don't need now but might in the future. Indigenous Nations whose territories Site C would flood point out under Treaty 8, they have entrenched constitutional rights to hunt, trap and fish on the would be flooded land. Environmentalists have pointed out that this land is also so fertile it could grow food for over a million people, and economists have shown that construction costs of Site C would create at least $5000 in debt for ever household in BC.
“When it comes to reconciliation or working with Indigenous leadership, look there has been over 150 years of disappointment in British Columbia. I am not the first person to stand before you and disappoint Indigenous peoples.”
- John Horgan after Site C decision
This is not an issue of disappointment. This is an issue of knowingly violating the rights the BC government has already acknowledged to “free, prior and informed consent” for indigenous nations into projects on their territories.
The West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations, whose territories will be flooded if Site C goes forward, will seek a court injunction against the Site C dam, and also announced they will pursue a civil case for treaty infringement. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, said that the NDP had “pretty much poisoned the well" for reconciliation between the province and Indigenous Nations. Saying “I hung up on him,” when Horgan called him after the decision.
Fighting to Lose
What has made the process so distasteful for many was that there was a clear and compelling case for cancelling the Dam, and the NDP missed every opportunity after forming government.
- The NDP refused to apply UNDRIP to Site C, saying that the project was already started so that would be “retrospective”.
- The NDP limited the review of Site C to strictly economic factors, when the indigenous rights components and environmental components are compelling and even more important.
- The NDP refused to halt construction while Site C was undergoing a review by the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC)
- The NDP did nothing when the BCUC tabled its highly critical report finding that Site C was was behind schedule, would be over 2 billion over budget, had unresolved risks including tension cracks, and “Increasingly viable alternative energy sources such as wind, geothermal and industrial curtailment could provide similar benefits to ratepayers as the Site C project, with an equal or lower unit energy cost.”
- The NDP waited until the outcry over the BCUC report had died down to announce their Site C decision
This is either a textbook worthy example of how to fail at stopping a project, or how to pay lip service “opposition” while allowing it to proceed.
The Green Party has not done much better. Despite saying they oppose Site C, their leader Andrew Weaver stated publicly before the decision that regardless of what happened he wouldn't withdraw his party's crucial support which upholds the NDP government.
There is now significant fallout from disconcerted NDP members and many others who had donated or campaigned for the party based on opposition to Site C. This is not the first time this has happened. The NDP faced losses of party members over its support for clear-cut logging in 1978, and a mass exodus when as provincial government they supported the clear-cut logging of the Old Growth forests of Clayoquot Sound in 1993.
Now the grassroots FightC coalition is organizing a Divest NDP campaign, which is organizing those outraged by the Site C decision to publicly cancel their monthly donations to the NDP and instead donate to the legal challenges by the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations through www.stakeinthepeace.com
Not in It To Lose
There is no reason to stop fighting against the Site C Dam. The indigenous nations, local residents, farmers, economists, environmentalists, scientists and many others who made the campaign against the Site C Dam so powerful are not stopping. We find ourselves in the familiar position of going head to head with a government which is trying to ignore our concerns in the name of giant mega-projects which destroy the environment and at best provide some temporary construction jobs. Fire This Time calls for an immediate halt to construction of the Site C Dam, and an independent public inquiry into what happened behind closed doors to compel both the BC Liberals and BC NDP to approve the project.
Stop Site C Now!
Independent Public Inquiry Now!
Follow Thomas Davies on Twitter: @thomasdavies59
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