B.C.’s newly minted NDP government has referred the $8.8-billion Site C dam megaproject to the province’s utilities commission for review, throwing into doubt one of former premier Christy Clark’s major accomplishments.
Energy Minister Michelle Mungall says the regulator will be tasked with determining the economic viability of the project, with interim results in six weeks and a final report in three months.
Mungall says the commission has been asked to confirm whether BC Hydro is on target to complete Site C on budget and by 2024, and provide advice on whether to proceed, suspend or terminate it.
WATCH: Questions on the future of Site C
“We absolutely appreciate that a lot of people’s lives are on hold – especially in the northeast of B.C. and that’s why we wanted to make this an expeditious process and we’re going to be looking at this in an expeditious way in short order,” said Mungall.
In a statement on Wednesday, BC Liberal MLA Mike Bernier accused the New Democrats of staging a review “designed to meet the NDP’s political needs and not the province’s electricity needs.”
“Is this fake review being done in the best interest of the British Columbia taxpayer or is this simply another way of appeasing Andrew Weaver to prop up their partisan alliance?”
WATCH: UBC study calls for suspension or cancellation of Site C dam
The head of the Independent Contractors Association (ICBA), a vocal opponent of the NDP, also critiqued the move, saying it will send the wrong message to investors.
“That regulatory approvals and environmental assessments are not worth the paper they are printed on. The government can come along and change its mind on a whim and you don’t have a project,” said Chris Gardner of the ICBA.
The NDP campaigned on sending the project to the commission, a practice that was once standard in B.C., before the previous Liberal government’s clean energy laws allowed some major projects to bypass the regulatory agency.
The dam is two years into construction and employs more than 2,200 people in northeastern B.C., and former BC Hydro CEO Jessica McDonald has warned that a one-year delay would cost $630 million.
It would be the third dam on the Peace River, flooding an 83-kilometre stretch of valley, and has faced fierce opposition from local First Nations, landowners and farmers.
-With files from The Canadian Press