COLUMN: Approving Site C dam is the wrong economic choice

Former Green Party candidate Kim Charlesworth is depressed by decision

By Kim Charlesworth

I was so depressed by the NDP’s decision to move ahead with construction of the Site C dam that I had to avoid thinking about it for close to a month.

They decided to go ahead, even though the final report of the BC Utilities Commission showed overwhelmingly that Site C was unnecessary, was already behind schedule and over budget — and that there was no business case to support it.

Yet the NDP did not cancel it despite many, including Michelle Mungall, campaigning actively in the 2017 election to stop it. The reason the NDP gave was that the $4 billion it would cost to cancel and remediate the land was unaffordable if they were also to fulfill their election promises of funding schools and healthcare. This rationale is so full of holes it doesn’t even compare to Swiss cheese.

Why is this important? Why should you care? Even if you narrow the focus strictly to economic impacts (as the BCUC report was mandated to do), in order to have a vision for the future that includes properly funded schools and healthcare, you need to have an economy that will support that.

The BCUC clearly supports the BC Greens argument that continuing with Site C will hurt our economy of the future. So once again, the NDP focus is on getting short-term votes rather than on governing sustainably for the long term.

Energy is a huge part of the B.C. economy. Lowering greenhouse gas emissions is a major focus of companies’ and governments worldwide, and should be for B.C.

It has been clearly shown that both mega-construction projects and the LNG industry to which Site C is tied are incompatible with lowering greenhouse gas emissions. So to keep our economy competitive we need to shift our thinking and change our actions.

Site C has also been directly linked with weakening the alternative energy sector in B.C. Alternative energy is critical to helping us shift and modernize our energy production, foster our job market and encourage a distributed energy grid, which WILL fuel our future economy. Being a leader in that transition is where the economic opportunities lie. Retraining workers is how we support people to make that shift. Partnering in a real way with our First Nations communities is where a just economy for all begins.

In the week after the Site C decision was announced I read a report titled The Future of our Food System by the Institute for Sustainable Food Systems.

Although it focuses on southwestern B.C., much is applicable to the province as a whole. To summarize, even if we take all the available agricultural land, set aside riparian zones and wildlife corridors, and manage agriculture in an intensive but sustainable way, we will not be able to feed ourselves. And Site C will flood the largest area of prime agricultural land in B.C. outside of the lower mainland. It’s a resource we cannot afford to lose.

The B.C. Greens and Andrew Weaver have been criticized by some for not stopping Site C, and for confining most of their arguments against the project to economics. I agree — the environmental, social and moral consequences of proceeding with Site C are astounding and should be talked about with a louder voice — but they have never stopped a project in the past.

If we can’t convince some of the public, who care more about getting the construction and LNG industry jobs, that Site C is the wrong economic choice, they will continue to support it.

The NDP have been able to continue this reckless course of action only because it did not require a vote in the legislature. The B.C. Greens will have an opportunity in February to vote against the government’s budget. Unfortunately, all that would achieve is another election, with no guarantee of the outcome and certainly no guarantee that the Site C decision would be reversed. What would you do?

Kim Charlesworth, a former Nelson city councillor, ran as a Green Party candidate in the 2017 provincial election.

 

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