The B.C. NDP government continues coming under fire from erstwhile allies for choosing to complete a $10.7-billion hydroelectric power project on the Peace River.
The Sierra Club B.C. January newsletter calls it "a monumentally bad decision", claiming that Premier John Horgan and his cabinet have "betrayed Treaty 8 First Nations and taken a massive step off the path to reconciliation".
The environmental group also describes the decision to finish the Site C dam as "a betrayal of the farmers and residents of the Peace River Valley" and a "betrayal of BC Hydro ratepayers, who will be paying for this misbegotten, overpriced monstrosity for the next 70 years".
"We hoped the people of the Peace Valley would see an end to their long nightmare with this decision," Sierra Club B.C. states. "Instead, we are appalled and saddened that Premier Horgan and the provincial cabinet have decided to destroy the valley, turning farmers and residents out of their homes. They've decided to saddle generations to come with an overwhelming debt burden and increased Hydro rates, to build a dam with no market for the power."
The premier defended the decision on accounting grounds: to cancel it, he claimed, would result in an immediate $4-billion charge to cover sunk costs and reclamation expenses. That could result in a large increase to the public debt or to B.C. Hydro's debt, the latter of which would cause an immediate 12 percent rate increase.
Opponents of the dam have noted that reclamation costs could be significantly lower and, regardless, the costs could be amortized over a long period of time.
B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver has said that there would have been enough fiscal room to cancel the Site C dam had the NDP government not eliminated tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges.
In the meantime, Sierra Club B.C. advises newsletter readers to take the fight to the national and international stages and to the courts.
"Prime Minister Trudeau has a Site C deadline: UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has called on Canada to evaluate Site C’s impacts on downstream Wood Buffalo National Park, a World Heritage Site," it states. "By this February Canada must demonstrate progress. The only way for the federal government to adequately address impacts both in the valley and downstream is to pull the permits for Site C."
Sierra Club B.C. also points out that the United Nations' Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination "has called on Canada to halt Site C and assess its impact on the land rights of Indigenous Peoples".
The Peace Valley-based Prophet River and West Moberly First Nations are planning to fight the decision in court, arguing that Site C infringes on their Treaty 8 rights.
"We will continue to stand with Treaty 8 Nations," Sierra Club B.C. insists. "This decision also underscores the need for electoral reform. It is highly unlikely projects such as Site C and Kinder Morgan's pipeline and tankers project would have been approved under proportional representation."
The newsletter points out that premier made his announcement on the 20th anniversary of the landmark Delgamuukw decision in the Supreme Court of Canada.
This ruling by Canada's highest court affirmed the existence of Aboriginal title in B.C. post-Confederation.
"It is inalienable and cannot be transferred, sold or surrendered to anyone other than the Crown," the court declared. "Another dimension of aboriginal title is its sources: its recognition by the Royal Proclamation, 1763 and the relationship between the common law which recognizes occupation as proof of possession and systems of aboriginal law pre‑existing assertion of British sovereignty. Finally, aboriginal title is held communally."