The Fort St. John & District Chamber of Commerce is not taking a position on the potential Site C dam, though the B.C. Chamber of Commerce has gone on record as being in favour.
When the Straight walked into the offices of the local chamber last month, located just off Fort St. John’s main 100th Street thoroughfare, manager Annette Oak said she and her colleagues would act as “information conduits” on the issue.
She then referred the Straight to president Russ Beerling for further comment.
“From a chamber standpoint, because we represent all the businesses, we don’t want to speak on behalf of the project or speak opposed to the project, because there is going to be a mix in our membership as to where each and every one of them stands,” Beerling said via cellphone on August 14. “So, we kind of want to...well, we’re sitting neutral, and as Annette [Oak] has explained to you, we’re just really being an information conduit to our members. So, when the members come to us, we provide them with the information. When they want to know what the pros and the cons of it are, we provide them with that information equally as well.”
In its October 2008 newsletter, the Vancouver-based B.C. Chamber of Commerce stated that it was “critical that we enhance our conservation efforts to reduce demand, as well as bolstering our supply through the construction of new generation capacity”.
“It is within this context that we support the development of Site C,” the provincial chamber wrote.
Beerling said he was aware of the provincial chamber’s position, but added: “We haven’t taken a stand because we’re too close to it. We’re too close to the project.”
Beerling clarified that he was referring to the project as being geographically too close to home. He said the chamber includes members from the small town of Hudson’s Hope, which is on the other side of where Site C would be.
“They are very affected there and everywhere in between,” Beerling said. “It affects our members. If they go ahead with Site C, it’s going to change the whole look of our land. For some people, their business is the land. There are farmers in there that are going to be affected. There’s going to be a lot of different businesses that are going to be affected by the dam going in, so we have to make sure that we stay as neutral as possible, just provide that information, and make sure we send them in the right direction.”
Fort St. John mayor Bruce Lantz sits on the B.C. Chamber of Commerce's board of directors.
"Prior to my time on the board they passed a resolution supporting Site C as good for business," Lantz told the Straight. "I’ve been on there for a couple of years. I have been arguing at every annual general meeting since then to have that taken off the books. And it isn’t; it’s still there."
Currently, B.C. Hydro is approaching the end of the project definition and consultation stage—the second stage of the project which looks to add a third dam to the Peace River alongside the W.A.C. Bennett and Peace Canyon dams. Crown corporation staff will submit a report to the provincial cabinet this fall which will indicate whether the project should proceed to the environmental assessment phase.