Although initially supportive, Premier Clark has now wisely refused to state a provincial position on whether the Enbridge pipeline should be built, arguing that all the facts must be in before such a commitment can be made. Sensible position.

A position made easier to adopt by the enormous negative publicity given the project as the public comes to appreciate the serious threats that this project poses both to the environment and to Canada’s “economic growth and long term development” (Robyn Allan, former president and CEO of the Insurance Corporation of B.C.).

So it seems rather arrogant that the Liberals are assuming that Site C is a done deal (as Rich Coleman told Vaughn Palmer “We’ll have Site C”, Vancouver Sun, Nov. 2, 2011 and “My government is a proponent”, Premier Clark’s comments in the Alaska Highway News, Feb. 13, 2012).

However, the Site C big dam project is also going to be examined by public hearings and the many reasons for rejection of Site C in 1982 are still relevant. Basically, Site C is not needed, unless you fundamentally believe that the ordinary person’s tax dollars should go to subsidize very profitable big business.

As economist Dr. Marvin Shaffer has pointed out (Sun, Oct.25, 2011), if BC Hydro does supply electricity to the new mines and LNG facilities at its standard industrial rate, it will lose money on the deal. Dr. Shaffer knows whereof he speaks; he was a consultant to the Site C Hearings Commission during the 1980s. “Just in supplying the electricity needed in the first phase of the Kitimat LNG facility, BC Hydro would lose some $90 million per year, possibly more. Similarly, in supplying each major new metal mine, BC Hydro would lose an additional $40 million to $50 million per year.”

Site C is just too expensive, even if we don’t include the ecological costs and the lost opportunity costs. Site C is neither clean nor green.

Even at $7.9 billion (and when has a big dam ever come in on budget?) Site C is more than $2 billion more expensive than the next most expensive hydroelectric project (Globe and Mail Jan 1, 2012), the Romaine Complex hydroelectric project in Quebec. This latter project is estimated to cost $6.5 billion, but it will have a capacity of 1550 MW, significantly more than Site C’s projected 900 MW, now claimed to be about 1,100 MW.

As Dr. Shaffer points out, “If the electric-intensive projects in the jobs strategy are worthwhile, they should be able to pay their way. They shouldn’t have to be subsidized with the offer of cheap power”.

Building hugely destructive megaproject dams is really an outdated way of thinking. This type of “cheap” power is only cheap if it is subsidized by BC taxpayers and ratepayers. And we have to assume that destroying 11,000 acres of agricultural land, including 7,000 acres of Class 1 and 2 soils, eliminating the narrowest point in the Yellowstone to Yukon Wildlife Corridor and violating a Treaty promise to First Nations to provide cheap energy to profitable big industry, is inconsequential.

Perhaps the Liberals believe in “third time lucky”. On two previous occasions, governments have tried to get approval for the Site C dam project and failed. Why? Because when the project is examined in the cold light of reason, without the fanfare of politics, the Site C dam is too expensive, both in economic and ecological terms. It is a dam in the wrong place and in the wrong economic climate.

How many more people could be employed if some of that $8 billion was invested in retrofitting homes, installing geoexchange systems and making “being off the grid” a real possibility for many who cannot now afford the capital cost? Investments in conservation are the most job intensive per dollar invested, and big dams one of the least.

One has to ask, why then is this government apparently so determined to destroy a magnificent valley to subsidize wealthy big business? According to Premier Cristy Clark, (Sun Feb.16, 2012) “the current Shell proposal would require 100 per cent of the power that could be produced by Site C.”

Premier Clark claims this is due to her jobs strategy, but subsidizing big industries like Shell (one of the wealthiest corporations on the planet!) is a very expensive way to create jobs, particularly when there is often a disconnect between job openings and available skilled workers.

Let’s hope the many opportunities that a Peace River valley could present, when free of the threat of a dam, will be seriously examined. And let’s hope a government will consider the enormous debt everyone in BC will have to take on to subsidize industries thatshould be able to pay their own way.

Adrienne Peacock

Editor’s note: Dr. Adrienne Peacock was a consultant to the Peace Valley Environment Association during the BCUC Hearings in 1981-82, and is a Faculty Emeritus, Douglas College.