It’s a decision that no doubt will have ramifications for years to come.
Monday in Victoria, Premier John Horgan, flanked by BC Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Michelle Mungall and Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman, stood in front of all of BC to confirm it will complete construction of the Site C hydroelectric dam.
The reason: to do otherwise would put British Columbians on the hook for an immediate and unavoidable $4-billion bill – with nothing in return – resulting in hydro rate hikes or a reduction of funds to build schools, hospitals and important infrastructure promised by the NDP.
“What we’ve found during this process, ultimately, was that (former BC Premier) Christy Clark did succeed in pushing this project past the point of no return when it came to finances,” Mungall told The Nelson Daily when asked about the controversial decision from Vancouver Tuesday.
Mungall said, with Site C 25 per cent completed, axing the project would severely affect BC’s credit rating.
“If it was going to be government or taxpayers paying for it, we would see our debt ceiling climb and the result would be a loss in our credit rating, which would mean hundreds of millions of dollars going into interest payments rather than into programs,” she said.
During Mungall’s short time in cabinet, no other ministry has faced more scrutiny than Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.
That continued following Monday’s announcement as Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver took to Twitter to try to embarrass the government with a comment Mungall made during 2016.
“ . . . I would suggest a recall campaign in Nelson-Creston would be in order if Site C is approved on her watch as energy minister,” the tweet said, beginning with, “Let’s have a look what our energy minister said about Site C on July 9, 2016.”
“I never said I should be recalled,” Mungall exclaimed. “He (Andrew Weaver) has called on people to recall me based one something I said in 2016,” Mungall added.
“What I said in 2016 was not that anybody should be recalled . . ..”
Instead, Mungall said she at the event she would not support Site C and we would send it to the BC Utilities Commission, as it always should have happened.
“I appreciate that Mr. Weaver is well-known for his late-night tweets and sharing his views over Twitter,” Mungall said.
“I personally believe that this is much more serious and, my relationships with my constituents, I take much more seriously that 140 characters.”
Some of those critics, including Weaver, have said the NDP should not have eliminated tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges — a decision, that came into effect September 1, that dumped unnecessary dollars into government debt.
“I’m aware Mr. Weaver has been saying that,” said Mungall, adding the decision goes with the NDP promise during the election to make life more affordable for British Columbians.
“The reality is how debt financing works. With bridges, we have an asset to back that up. With Site C, we have no asset, so that’s an important distinct to understand and how debt financing works.”
As seen on the face of Horgan during Monday’s press conference, this was not an easy decision for the government. Instead it has turned its own supporters against the NDP Party.
“I’m not asking anyone to be happy with this decision,” Mungall said.
“I’m not asking anybody to turn around to be pro Site C — I would say I’m not pro Site C.”
“What I was faced with, and what my cabinet colleagues were faced with, was an impossible situation and what we were faced with was Christy Clark getting this project past the point of no return,” Mungall added.
“We were not going to make a decision based on crass politics, as she had done. We were going to make a decision that everyday people’s needs were going to be met.
“And we did that.”