B.C. NDP pledges sweeping energy retrofits to create jobs, save on rate hikes

VICTORIA – Opposition New Democrat Leader John Horgan isn’t ruling out cancelling the $9-billion Site C Hydro electric project already under construction if his party wins the 2017 provincial election.

Horgan made the statement while launching his PowerBC plan Tuesday, pledging provincewide retrofits of everything from the Revelstoke Dam to private homes.

He said his plan would create jobs across B.C. and protect families and businesses from rising power rates through accelerated energy retrofits of public buildings, schools, commercial structures and homes.

Horgan said he would revisit the question of cancelling the Site C project leading up to the provincial election 18 months from now, adding life would go on if the project were shelved.

“I don’t think we’re at the too-late stage,” he told reporters.

He said the project faces court challenges from First Nations and environmental groups and its future is far from certain.

“I can’t speculate on what the outcomes of the court cases will be nor can I speculate on how far advanced any projects will be,” said Horgan. “What I wanted to do today was to demonstrate that there are alternatives, genuine alternatives and they are supported by science and good economics.”

Energy Minister Bill Bennett disagreed, calling the suggestion to cancel the Site C project “an asinine idea.”

He said if Horgan wants to fight an election on that issue then “let her rip.”

Bennett noted that by 2017 the majority of the construction costs and work on the dam will be underway, including the diversion of the Peace River.

He said Horgan’s suggestion amounts to telling job seekers to put away their new work boots and hard hats.

“What Mr. Horgan is basically saying is take your boots back,” said Bennett. “Take your gloves back, you’re not going to get that chance to work.”

He said the Site C project is forecast to create 10,000 jobs.

The NDP energy plan would also include upgrading existing Crown-owned BC Hydro facilities like the Revelstoke Dam in B.C.’s southeast.

Horgan said his plan would free BC Hydro to pursue clean-energy opportunities that draw upon wind and solar power and use emerging technologies. He said the plan would also include partnerships with First Nations and clean-energy providers.

Horgan said his plan is more cost effective and efficient than the Liberal energy plan, which he described as stuck in the 1950s.

“I’ll put (my plan) against (Premier) Christy Clark’s any day of the week,” he added.

Clark gave Site C the green light last year, saying it represents a historic milestone that will be felt for a century.

The dam would be the third on the Peace River in northeastern B.C., flooding an 83-kilometre stretch of valley near Fort St. John.

The power project has been part of B.C.’s long-range energy options since 1958.