BC Chamber Op-Ed: Business leaders urge government to build Site C

In the News, Op-eds & Commentary

The following op-ed was published November 4, 2014, in the Vancouver Sun.

By: Gordon Bliss of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association-Northern B.C.; Jack Davidson of the B.C. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Industry Association; Paul Gevatkof of the South Peace Oilmen’s Association; Philip Hochstein of the Independent Contractors and Business Association of B.C.; Manley McLachlan of the B.C. Construction Association; Blair Qualey of the New Car Dealers Association of B.C.; Keith Sashaw of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies-B.C.; Rosalind Thorn of B.C. Construction Association-North; John Winter of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce.

The decision by the B.C. and Canadian governments to grant environmental approval to B.C. Hydro’s Site C project is very good news. Site C can provide British Columbians with a long-term asset that will lock in lower prices for residents, as well as provide businesses with a continued competitive advantage compared with other jurisdictions.

This approval recognizes that B.C. Hydro recently concluded a comprehensive, multi-year process that looked into the feasibility of the project, its potential environmental impacts and ways those impacts could be alleviated, and alternatives to Site C. The process included public and First Nations consultation, and a series of public hearings held by an independent federal-provincial joint review panel.

While the panel did not make a recommendation on whether the project should proceed, it did draw some significant conclusions, including that more than 99 per cent of Class 1 to 5 agricultural lands (land capable of crop production) in the Peace Agricultural Region will not be affected by Site C; that proposed measures identified by B.C. Hydro in its environmental impact statement will largely mitigate environmental effects of the project; and that B.C. will need new energy and capacity at some point.

The panel also looked at alternatives to Site C, such as run-of-river and wind. While these have a place in the supply of electricity, they are intermittent and will not provide the firm power that Site C will generate.

More important, the panel concluded “Site C would be the least expensive of the alternatives, and its cost advantages would increase with the passing decades as inflation makes alternatives more costly.”

That’s a key reason why the decision on Site C is being welcomed by companies, industries and chambers of commerce across B.C.

British Columbia needs Site C. Electricity demand is expected to grow by 40 per cent in the next 20 years, and a number of major projects are in the implementation or planning stages in B.C. that will need stable and dependable sources of power. Site C can help deliver that power.

Site C will also strength our economy. Construction alone will generate 10,000 person-years of direct employment, 33,000 person-years of direct and indirect work throughout the province, and add $3.2 billion to the provincial GDP.

A stronger economy means jobs, and higher revenues to pay for the services that British Columbians want, such as education, health care and support for those less fortunate.

Also, large hydro projects in B.C. have a proven track record. Today, we have an electricity system that is more than 90-per-cent clean and  clean and renewable, and has among the lowest electricity rates in North America.

Site C is a good project and it should move forward. As business leaders, we are urging the provincial government to approve Site C.