News / Vancouver

Site C decision will ‘protect’ ratepayers: B.C. Premier

Premier John Horgan says his ultimate decision on Site C will focus on ratepayers as Utilities Commission prepares to release final report.

Preparatory construction work continues on BC Hydro's $8-billion Site C dam on the Peace River, near Fort St. John in B.C.'s northeast, shown in these 2016 photos.

Contributed/BC Hydro / Metro Web Upload

Preparatory construction work continues on BC Hydro's $8-billion Site C dam on the Peace River, near Fort St. John in B.C.'s northeast, shown in these 2016 photos.

Premier John Horgan promised to protect ratepayers as he braced himself for the release of the British Columbia Utilities Commissions’ final review of the Site C dam.

The commission’s final report on the $8.8-billion megaproject is expected Wednesday, with it a recommendation on whether construction should proceed or not.

Horgan told media on Tuesday he’ll stick to his promise of deciding the dam’s fate by the end of the year.

“We made a commitment during the election campaign to review the Site C project. We’re going to go on the timeline we’ve set out and I’m committed to that,” he said. “We wouldn’t be in this situation had the BC Liberals done what every government has done before them and put major capital projects like this before a third party so that the public could have the confidence it was the right choice.”

The commission released a preliminary report on the project in late September saying at the time the project was on track to meet its 2024 completion date but could not say if it would remain on budget.

BC Hydro has already spent $1.8 billion on construction.

Horgan said the BCUC’s report will determine the economic viability of the project going forward and that government will then consult with affected First Nations on a “one-on-one basis” before making its final call.

At the end of the day, the impact on ratepayers will be a driving factor, he said.

“I’m committed to make sure that I’m protecting ratepayers from rate shock. Over the past decade our rates have been going up far, far faster than the cost of inflation and far faster than other jurisdictions,” he said. “We wanted to make sure [the commission] focused, in the short time frame, on the economics and the impact on people in terms of their rates and what it would be on the long term.”

Regardless of the decision, Horgan said government is planning to take a closer look at BC Hydro’s operations next year, from deferred debt to two-tier billing.

“We have a host of issues at BC Hydro, not least of which is capital construction of the Site C dam,” he said.

-with files from the Canadian Press

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