Editorial: Province moves towards site C

Trent Ernst, Editor


Well, it’s official. But is it legal?

On July 7, the BC government granted approval for the long awaited, much debated and sometimes hated first phase of construction on Site C dam.

BC Hydro has announced it will be doing a job fair here in Tumbler Ridge, but, with a major court battle before the BC Supreme Court and another five wending their way through the system, the project still isn’t a slam dunk for the province, though they are treating it as such.

True, recently the pendulum has seemed to start swinging in favour of the dam.

The Peace Valley Landowner Association lost their case before the BC Supreme Court earlier this month.

They argued that, by failing to consider all the recommendations of the joint Review Panel, provincial environment ministers, Terry Lake and Mary Polak, erred in law, arguing that environmental approval for the dam be withdrawn.

A second case by the Peace Valley Landowner Association will be heard in federal court later this month.

But is public support building for the project

A recent poll showed that 59 percent of people across the province supported or strongly supported the dam.

That`s up from 42 percent support in a 2013 poll that asked a similar question.

On the other side of the river, 17 percent oppose the dam, down 1 percent from 2013.

And just this week, members of the Saulteau First Nations voted 62 percent in favour of accepting an Impact Benefits Agreement with BC Hydro.

This means that the won’t be joining in on the legal action being spearheaded by Treaty 8 neighbour West Moberly First Nations.

This follows hot on the heels of another local band, the McLeod Lake Indian Band, backed out of  lawsuit.

However, it`s not all smooth sailing for Hydro. Indeed, this last week was the tenth annual paddle for the Peace.

271 people from across the region set out from the confluence of the Peace and the Halfway Rivers, paddling to Bear Flats, where speakers, including David Suzuki, spoke out against the dam.

Suzuki, who has been protesting the idea of site C for 40 years, spoke in favour of alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar.

He was joined by Phillip Stewart, Grand Chief of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. Stewart has, in the past, suggested blockading the Alaska Highway as a means of protesting construction. He said he was willing to be arrested, “as long as that will contribute to stopping this project.”

Minister Steve Thomson has said the legal actions won’t stop the building of the $9-billion dam, which either shows a great deal of confidence (some might say arrogance) in the rightness of the project, or else a staggering degree of ignorance about how the courts work.

With 10,000 construction jobs on the line and many people in the Tumbler Ridge area still out of work after the closure of the two mines, most people are cheering the government on. Which is all well and good, but it would be even better if the whole process were put to bed before construction started.

But that’s a bit of pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking, as the legal challenges would probably continue for years and years if given half a chance.

And it’s easy to get all self-righteous about this: BC needs this, Tumbler Ridge needs this, but understand that, for you it’s a potential job. For many of these people, it’s not just their livelihood, but their home, their heritage that is being lost if—when—the dam gets built.