report noted that the technical advisory board overseeing Site C warned in May, 2019, that the stability of the dam is “a significant risk and the hazards of the weak foundation have been adequately recognized.”
Mr. Horgan has insisted that he was not aware of the geotechnical issues facing Site C until BC Hydro disclosed them publicly in July, more than 14 months after the technical advisory board had shared its conclusions. It remains unclear who knew and when about Site C’s problems along the chain of command within government leading to Mr. Horgan’s office.
“We put in place significant oversight on this project and it hasn’t proven to be adequate at this point,” Mr. Horgan this month told Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer.
Frankly, that is not good enough. Only a public inquiry, similar to the one Newfoundland and Labrador conducted to get to the bottom of the Muskrat Falls boondoggle, can identify those responsible for allowing a misguided project to continue unchecked. The original $8-billion cost of Site C was revised to $10.7-billion in 2017. But foundation reinforcements alone could boost the construction price tag by another $2-billion. More cost overruns seem inevitable.
Mr. Horgan punted a decision on Site C’s fate until after last October’s provincial election by appointing Peter Milburn, a former deputy minister of finance under Ms. Clark, to recommend whether the project should be halted. Few observers are betting on Mr. Horgan to pull the plug on Site C, however. Organized labour, a major force within the NDP, has been a big supporter of the project and the construction jobs it has brought.
There are still a few optimists who believe the economic case for Site C could be salvaged if B.C. could sell power from the project to Alberta, enabling the latter province to decarbonize its electricity grid. Interprovincial electricity co-operation is, however, one of those uniquely Canadian ideas that never materializes. Besides, private electricity producers in Alberta have invested billions in natural gas-fired generating capacity that can keep the lights on at a far lower cost than power from Site C, even if the gap will shrink gradually as carbon taxes rise.
It will take a public inquiry to expose the folly that led B.C. to this very bad place.
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