Letter: The dam to nowhere

Tuesday, December 19 2017


Here’s the first thing I can’t get past regarding the NDP’s decision to drown the Peace: I don’t believe the reasons they’ve given for doing so.

Political activists come to understand there is a difference between the truth - the facts as known by those who have educated themselves on an issue - and the “party line” - the story told by politicians to the less informed to make the party’s actions palatable while not revealing their real reasons. 

Site C is a dam to nowhere. It will perpetuate an outdated grid-dependent infrastructure, and produce energy that we won’t need for years – if ever – at far higher production costs than sales costs.

The party line tells us that we must go ahead with the dam anyway. It says there is nothing to show for the officially estimated $4 billion of “sunk” costs to terminate the project, so in order to maintain our credit rating, those costs would have to be paid at a more punitive rate than the estimated $10.7 billion to complete it. 

But those who have been encouraging the NDP to save the Peace note that much of the infrastructure built for Site C is already an asset; that the estimated $2 billion to repair the mess would probably be closer to the $336 million spent on a similar dam amelioration in the US; that the BC Utilities Commission report assumed that termination costs would be amortized over a 30 year period, making the impacts on ratepayers negligible; and that while the cost of not completing the dam won’t impact our credit rating, completing the dam might.

I recognize that economics is an arcane discipline. Further, some MLAs are doubling down on the NDP’s story by doing a party line dance on social media. 

So here’s a link for folks who still don’t believe $4 billion costs more than $11 billion and want to decide for themselves which of the duelling economists makes the most sense: www.peacevalleyland.com/blog/date/2017-12. 

Over the last few days there has been speculation among many long-term political activists on the real reasons for this. 

I believe Site C will be used as an excuse to ignore the science on the environmental impacts of fracking so that the stranded power from Site C can be used by the LNG industry as the Liberals planned.  

I can’t begin to describe how strongly I hope to be proven wrong about this.


And here’s the other thing I can’t get past: I see no ethical difference between Trudeau’s decision to allow Kinder Morgan to put BC’s economy and environment at risk for “the good of Canada,” and the NDP’s decision to destroy First Nations’ and other landowners’ property “for the good of BC.”

Only in a state of dire emergency does a government have the moral right and horrible duty to make decisions that benefit one set of people at the expense of another. Site C is not that emergency.

As for the government’s plans to ameliorate the harm they are doing, well, you just can’t make up for the loss of traditional lands by relocating folks and the graves of their ancestors. 

Sacred ground simply isn’t interchangeable. 

Because, and only because, of my personal loyalty to MLAs Doug Routley and Leonard Krog, I’ve been trying to decide what, if anything, would move me past this betrayal of human and environmental rights and continue to support the NDP.

Maybe, I thought, if they impose a moratorium on fracking? Or maybe if they do that and force fin fish farms out of the ocean? Or maybe if they do those things and stop Kinder Morgan? Or maybe all of the above plus fixing the ferries? 

But none of those things take me past the imperialist decision to destroy First Nations’ beloved and sacred lands – their national heritage – “for the good” of settler society.

I promised the NDP that if they proceeded with the dam to nowhere I would send my NDP donations to the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations to help with their court cases against Site C. I have done that.

But since the Dec. 11 decision, I’ve also struggled with whether I can support the NDP in any way – including organizing town hall meetings for our MLA, Doug Routley.

Here’s what I’ve decided: when all the First Nations of the Peace forgive the NDP for what’s been done to their homelands, I’ll go back to supporting the party.

As for how – or whether – I will vote in the next election, it’s too early to say. 

I’ll just have to see whether this ends up being the last time this government betrays the trust I had that they would be different from the previous one. 

For peace, truth and justice,

And for Generation 8,

~ Chris Bowers