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No insight from B.C. NDP as they approve Site C Dam

B.C. premier John Horgan at the press conference announcing the government will complete Site C construction. Photo: Government of British Columbia

There are times when the winds of change blow. Times when darkness appears to be distant, and the bastion of light seems to be on the horizon.

Much like a poet who has found its long lost muse. Much like a romantic who has found new love.

There are also times when you think the NDP has changed. But then you get a stark reminder that it hasn't.

Nothing personifies this greater than the recent B.C. government decision to give Site C the green light. How many will be shredding their NDP memberships? The numbers might be too tragic to report. At the end of the day, those in favour of Site C will argue that it was a political decision and not an ideological one. That might be true, but since when did taking a principled ideological stance become taboo? Why must we remain perpetual slaves to the whims of ill-founded pragmatism without an ounce of idealism?

There is the financial argument -- more than $4 billion has already been spent. Why stop now? The fact that remains that even before Site C approval, it is already a whopping billion dollars over budget, and costs will only rise further. The potential of future B.C. generations ending up as monetary sacrificial lambs for a dam that is not needed is a very real possibility now. Let's not forget the glaring cracks that are already appearing in the NDP's membership following this decision. A minority government that relies heavily on the support of the Green Party would surely have calculated the risk better.

People like Dr. Steve Gray, chair of the Peace Valley Solidarity Initiative, had come out all guns blazing against this decision, and deservedly so. The dam would flood approximately 80 km of the Peace River Valley, eradicating over 13,000 hectares of vital farmland and critical wildlife habitat, landing a potential fatal below to B.C.'s ecological well-being. On top of the obvious environmental nightmare, Site C would infringe on the treaty rights of First Nations, landing reconciliation another massive blow.

Even if one buys the argument that power will needed in the future, there were other environmental friendly options, such as expanding capacity on existing dams such as Revelstoke.

To top it all, the project is not just an environmental but economic and scientific disaster too. A BC Hydro forecast in 2007 said that British Columbia was supposed to be consuming 70 terawatt-hours per year by 2016-17.

Instead the province is only consuming 60. Demand for electricity has been largely stagnant since 2005, and as prices rise, demand will remain flat too. The Royal Society of Canada even raised major concerns to Justin Trudeau last year, revolving almost exclusively around legal, environmental and scientific challenges of the proposal.

Not only does the Site C create risks for B.C., it doesn't bode well for Canada on the international arena either. It is in direct contrast to Canada's stance on the Paris agreement. The farmland at risk of flooding is essential to reducing B.C.'s dependence on imported foods and substantially reducing the carbon fuels needed to transport those foods.

Granted, Site C does have some advantages, such as preventing approximately 30 to 70 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from being generated, but the disadvantages significantly outweigh this.

The most depressing part of course is that it comes from the NDP. If this was coming from the B.C. Liberals, it would feel like another day at the office. Coming from the NDP it feels like nothing short of betrayal and political selling out.

Salman Zafar is a member of Socialist Alternative Canada and serves as the branch treasurer for Vancouver. The opinion reflected here may or may not reflect that of his organization. He blogs onwww.salmanzafarblog.wordpress.com and tweets @salmanzafar1985.

Photo: Government of British Columbia

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