Site C contractors launch campaign to defend project

More than 2,000 workers at Site C dam now fear for their jobs
Jordan Bateman, right, and Chris Gardner of the ICBA launch campaign to save Site C construction jobs. | Nelson Bennett

Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver had his own words on Site C dam thrown back at him Thursday, June 8, at a press conference held by an association representing contractors working on the $8.8 billion project.

The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) strung hundreds of pink slips up at BC Hydro’s head office on Dunsmuir Street – one for each of the 2,245 workers currently employed at the dam site.

Those construction jobs are now at risk, should a review by the BC Utilities Commission recommend bringing the project to a halt. As part of a four-year governance agreement struck between the NDP and Greens, a minority NDP government would fast-track a review of the project.

“That’s 2,200 families that don’t know in the next two to three months whether they’re going to have a paycheque,” said Chris Gardner, ICBA president. “What John Horgan and Andrew Weaver are doing is irresponsible and it’s reckless.

“It’s sending a signal that British Columbia is closed for business. It’s sending a signal to investors who want to invest in British Columbia to create jobs that, if you get a project approved in this province, you may not be able to build it. The government may change its mind.”

The ICBA said the project is now about 20% along in construction. Estimates of the money already spent by BC Hydro on the project vary from $2 billion to $4 billion.

One of the visuals for the press conference was a poster featuring quotes from Weaver.

“It meets the definition of clean energy,” was one of the quotes, which came from a Globe and Mail interview with Weaver in 2010, before he had entered politics.

“I can’t see what is stopping Site C,” Weaver is also quoted as saying in 2009.

The pink slips displayed at Thursday’s press conference featured Weaver and Horgan, with a bubble quote: “You’re fired!”

Both were characterized as urban politicians who don’t care about working class people in rural B.C. About 40% of the workers employed on the Site project are from the Peace region, including 200 First Nations, according to the ICBA.

“John Horgan and Andrew Weaver live 1,282 kilometres away from Site C dam, and yet they’re imprinting their view of British Columbia on the people working right on that project,” said Jordan Bateman, the ICBA’s new communications director.

An NDP-Green governance agreement says that it would ask the BCUC to review the project, with a six-week preliminary report, and three-month final recommendation.

The ICBA is concerned with both the timelines and wording of the referral. The NDP would ask the BCUC to assess the project based on “current” supply and demand.

But the dam isn’t being built to meet current power demands. Demand has actually fallen in recent years, thanks in part to the loss of major power customers, like mines and pulp mills.

The project is being built to meet future demand expected from population and industrial growth. It’s also expected that the demand for power in B.C. could increase, as the City of Vancouver phases out natural gas and as electric vehicle adoption in B.C. increases.

“This is a project that you cannot judge based on today or tomorrow,” Bateman said. “You have to judge it based on the 100-year lifecycle that that dam is going to be providing power.”

He reiterated projections that the delays that a review will cause will add more than $600 million to the project’s costs.

“That’s a lot of taxpayers’ money to be wasted and I don’t think that should be happening.”

The ICBA is hoping to mobilize what it calls a “silent majority” that supports the dam project, as well as other major capital projects in B.C., through the launch of an online campaign called Get2Yes.

The campaign urges online support of not only Site C dam, but other projects as well, including the $7.4 billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, the $3.5 billion, George Massey Tunnel replacement project, and the $36 billion Pacific NorthWest LNG project in Prince Rupert.

nbennett@biv.com

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