Someone is auctioning Premier Horgan's 'stake' in the Peace over Site C
NDP leader admitted his Site C approval would be unpopular. But Peace Valley residents are debating what to do with a symbol of his one-time support.
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B.C. Premier John Horgan knew the stakes were high in approving the Site C dam Monday. But he may have forgotten that, on this issue, the stakes are quite literal.
Near the shores of the Peace River, soon to be submerged under 6,500 hectares of floodwater, is planted a long yellow wooden post bearing a name: "John Horgan, MLA."
On Monday, that humble piece of wood — for which then-Opposition leader Horgan reportedly paid $100 to show his support for anti-Site C First Nations — has become a bitter symbol for residents of the Peace Valley outraged by his decision to approve the $10.7-billion Site C dam.
It was part of a two-year-old "Stake in the Peace" lawsuit fundraiser by the Peace Valley Landowner Association and First Nations — and Horgan at the time posed proudly with his contribution. With the tables turned after Monday's decision, locals immediately recognized the stake as a newfound symbol.
"We may sell this. How much would you offer?" joked Fort St. John resident Shelley Falk Ouellette on Twitter on Monday evening, adding that Horgan "paid $100.00 to support Treaty 8 legal costs against the previous government.
"… I say sell it, let it help pay for our fight against him going forward. Every $ helps."
Well, bid they did — as social media lit up with suggestions for what to do with the offending wood.
"Just got a bid on John Horgan's stake in the Peace for $120.00," Falk Ouellette wrote on Facebook just hours later. Another user quickly offered $140.
It's one of 662 yellow stakes hammered into the Peace River's banks on the homestead of Ken and Arlene Boon, which has been expropriated by BC Hydro for the floodway. Funds from the stakes went to Prophet River and West Moberly First Nations legal challenge to Site C, according to the Stake in the Peace campaign.
Falk Ouellette, a 58-year-old oil field industrial medic who lives outside Fort St. John, told Metro the idea for the fundraiser came after BC Hydro re-routed a construction road through the Boons' and other landowners yards by their houses.
"BC Hydro put yellow stakes in their yards, so that's where the campaign comes from," she said in a phone interview. "So we decided to sell stakes for $100 apiece, paint them yellow, and surround BC Hydro's stakes. None of us expected it to raise $70,000 or more."
But not all Site C critics want the stake sold. Some hoped it could become a rousing symbol of their opposition to the dam, others suggesting it be symbolically burned, or that if Horgan were to accidentally sit on it, "He might get the point."
Making his controversial announcement Monday, Horgan admitted the decision would be "very, very divisive" and have a "profound impact" on both people in the region and several generations of British Columbians as well.
"I know … friends and family members of mine will be very disappointed in this," Horgan told reporters. "… For many years I've been extremely critical of the B.C. Liberals' decision to proceed with this project; I questioned their motivations, their assumptions, their business case, and their budget.
"… They got to the point of no return, that was their whole point."
Whether his Site C decision ends up affecting the B.C. NDP's election prospects in three years — or remain an internal rift within the party's urban base — remains to be seen, although social media debates raged Monday on whether the electorate will forget by 2021, or whether enough voters even care about the issue in the ballot box.
But another Facebook commenter wrote on Falk Ouellette's wall that it's up to Peace residents and supporters to keep the memory fresh: "Don't sell it. Take it to Victoria and plant it in the Parliament lawn. Take a photo. Save it for future generations so they will see what a liar and a deceiver looks like. I will pay you not to sell it."
And others riffed on the word "stake" by suggesting Peace residents "parade it" at anti-Site C protests with the title: "The Stake in the Heart of the Peace."
For Falk Ouellette, auctioning the item to raise money from legal battles being promised ahead was not a serious proposal, she told Metro. But it's a poignant symbol likely to be mobilized by fellow dam opponents.
"I think it should be waved in his face as often as possible," she noted, "calling him out on his raging hypocrisy."
Asked by phone about the auction, she told Metro the stake's actually not the Stake in the Peace campaign's to sell and West Moberly First Nation will make the final call on what to do with the Premier's painted post. (Chief Roland Willson could not be immediately reached for comment.)
"Because it's a Treaty 8 fundraiser — it's our campaign for them — the Chief of West Moberly First Nation has plans for Horgan's stake," she revealed. "They haven't announced what (the plan) is, but I don't think that stake's going to be around much longer."