by Gary Porter
John Horgan, New Democratic Party Premier of British Columbia, had a decision to make. Whether to build a mega power dam, Site C, on the bucolic Peace River, or not. BC doesn’t need the power. It will not need it even if all drivers suddenly switch to electric cars. Local farmers don’t want it. The land is unceded territory of Indigenous peoples and they reject it. But Horgan, violating the sovereign rights of Indigenous peoples, economic rationality and ecological sanity, said yes to the project.
Why? Because fracking takes a lot of power and the gas fields are right next door. Fracking is used to find methane gas, a green house gas 80 times worse than CO2. But fracking, it turns out is causing four times the earthquakes predicted and far stronger than imagined. Given the weak shale foundation strata on which the dam is being built, a fact known from its inception, engineers reported that a massive reinforcement would have to be built and even then, they could not be sure if the finished dam would withstand ongoing earthquakes.
Many called for the dam to be stopped. The Globe and Mail wrote an editorial on the dam titled “Enough is enough” referring to the spiralling cost and the engineering uncertainty.
Horgan, of course, set up a “study”. He did not release the findings, but he announced his decision. He is going ahead with the project. The cost has risen from $6 billion estimated in 2014 to $16 billion today. Who knows how much it will actually cost BC workers in the end? Some pundits estimate $20 billion, but simple linear projection of the rising cost curve looks more like $25 billion
Horgan is wholly committed — to the oil cartel. He appears to have a Trump-size ego and cannot face backing down on a stupid decision. So, here we are with a super expensive dam, that may never work, designed to provide power at subsidized rates to the worst climate destroyers on the planet. The workers of BC are to pay for it. Of course, Horgan never hesitates at brutally trampling indigenous rights in the process. An indigenous chief on whose unceded land the dam is being built was interviewed on TV news. He said he never received a call from Horgan, not even to warn him he intended to proceed with the unsound dam.
John Horgan should resign. If he doesn’t resign, he should be thrown out by the NDP. There has to be a limit to the utter lack of concern for people, for nature and human survival shown by this man. The complete subservience to global capitalist profits personified by Horgan has no place in a labour-based party.
In November there will be a BC NDP convention. Normally the brass organizes a big cheering squad to usher in the Premier. He gives a rah-rah speech and then a vote is held immediately on whether the convention wants a leadership review.
In 2017 his speech never mentioned Site C, but two weeks after the convention he announced his approval. Such disrespect by the party brass for the convention, the highest decision-making body of the party, should not continue. Party members should demand time for an honest discussion of the leader’s performance. Let’s talk about the four years he took to phase in a $15/hr minimum wage, the continuing record numbers of opioid deaths, the fact that his campaign slogan was “affordability” but houses cost more in BC than any other province, over a million dollars in Vancouver and over $880,000 in Victoria. Horgan’s answer is what? Who knows? Whatever it is, it’s not working. Prices are rising. Let’s talk about how he gave up on the fight against the TMX pipeline, organized, subsidized and approved Coastal Gas Link over the opposition of the Wet’suwet’en people and used RCMP SWAT teams to force the pipeline through. Let’s talk about the LNG processors to be built in China and set up in Kitimat. When they are installed, they will be the biggest single source of green houses gases in BC, courtesy of John Horgan. And let’s talk about Horgan’s folly, Site C. Then call the vote.