B.C. NDP pre­mier tells cel­e­bra­tory con­ven­tion del­e­gates tough de­ci­sions ahead

The Miracle - - Politics -

VIC­TO­RIA — Bri­tish Columbia Pre­mier John Hor­gan opened his New Demo­cratic Party’s con­ven­tion on Satur­day with an ex­u­ber­ant cheer to cel­e­brate the party’s rise to power af­ter 16 years of Lib­eral gov­ern­ments, but he quickly turned to se­ri­ous is­sues ahead. “It feels like the elec­tion was a life­time ago,” said Hor­gan about last May’s elec­tion re­sult that re­sulted in the NDP reach­ing an agree­ment with the Green party to form a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment. He said the New Democrats face one of the most dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions in B.C.’s his­tory over the fu­ture of the $8.3 bil­lion Site C hy­dro­elec­tric dam, which has been un­der con­struc­tion for more than two years. The New Democrats an­nounced they will make a yes or no de­ci­sion on Site C, and the fate of the more than 2,000 peo­ple cur­rently work­ing on the project, by the end of the year.An in­de­pen­dent gov­ern­ment-com­mis­sioned re­port this week found the project in B.C.’s north­east will likely not meet its 2024 com­ple­tion date and is over bud­get and could cost more than $10 bil­lion. “We have a se­ri­ous de­ci­sion ahead of us,” said Hor­gan. “It’s not just me, not just our col­leagues in the gov­ern­ment but all of us in B.C. It’s a de­ci­sive de­ci­sion about where we go from here, but this is the good news friends, the de­ci­sion to pro­ceed or not to pro­ceed is go­ing to be made in the in­ter­est of Bri­tish Columbians.” One of the Hor­gan’s gov­ern­ment’s first moves af­ter tak­ing power last July was to ask the B.C. Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion, the prov­ince’s in­de­pen­dent util­i­ties reg­u­la­tor, to ex­am­ine the project’s eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity. Site C, which would be the third dam on B.C.’s Peace River near Fort St. John, was a sig­na­ture job-cre­ation and power gen­er­a­tion plan of for­mer Lib­eral pre­mier Christy Clark. The com­mis­sion re­port stated the dam is not likely to be com­pleted by a 2024 dead­line and could end up cost­ing 20 to 50 per cent more than bud­geted, in­creas­ing com­ple­tion costs to above $10 bil­lion. Hor­gan told re­porters fol­low­ing his con­ven­tion speech, he will con­duct an in­tense eco­nomic re­view of the project in the com­ing weeks. He said he is con­cerned about re­cent re­ports of tension cracks in ar­eas at the con­struc­tion site. “I’m go­ing to be work­ing with the min­istry of fi­nance, B.C. Hy­dro, the min­istry of en­ergy to look at the eco­nom­ics of the project go­ing for­ward, and new rev­e­la­tions about geotech­ni­cal chal­lenges makes it in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to look at the project as one that is go­ing to be in the best in­ter­est of B.C.,” he said.But Hor­gan said his com­ments should not be viewed as a sig­nal he al­ready has made up his mind about killing Site C. “We’ve got a lot of anal­y­sis to do on the num­bers and how we pro­ceed from here will be known in the full­ness of time,” he said. Hor­gan also told con­ven­tion del­e­gates the NDP faces a loom­ing bat­tle over the $7.4 bil­lion Kin­der Mor­gan Trans Moun­tain pipe­line project, which the party says threat­ens the prov­ince’s coast. The Al­berta-to-B.C. pipe­line has al­ready re- ceived ap­provals from the fed­eral Lib­er­als and the for­mer B.C. Lib­eral gov­ern­ment, but the NDP promised dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign to fight the project. “We are go­ing to be guided by the val­ues of the peo­ple in this room,” Hor­gan told del­e­gates. “We’re go­ing to be guided by the val­ues of Bri­tish Columbians who be­lieve that a seven-fold in­crease in tanker traf­fic in the Sal­ish Sea is not in the in­ter­est of our en­vi­ron­ment. It’s not in the in­ter­est of our econ­omy and we’re go­ing to make de­ci­sions based on the best in­ter­ests of you and all Bri­tish Columbians across the prov­ince.” Hor­gan re­in­forced the NDP’s plans to fight the pipe­line project in com­ments to re­porters af­ter his con­ven­tion speech. “We’ve been work­ing as dili­gently as we can look­ing at what tools we have to make sure we’re putting up the op­po­si­tion Bri­tish Columbians have pro­fessed to us,” he said. Hor­gan gen­er­ated large cheers through­out his speech, but the loud­est came when he told del­e­gates he will set his sights high and not ac­cept sec­ond best. Hor­gan hugged fed­eral NDP Leader Jag­meet Singh, who also ad­dress the con­ven­tion. Hor­gan’s lead­er­ship re­ceived a 97.5 per cent ap­proval at a con­ven­tion vote.

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