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Brian Jones: British Columbia gives boost to Boondoggle II

There must be something in the water at either end of the country that makes politicians susceptible to blowing bundles of public money on hydroelectric boondoggles.

 

Brian Jones
Brian Jones

 

This week the British Columbia government approved continuing with construction of the Site C dam in the Peace River Valley, a project the province’s Green Party leader dubbed a “Liberal boondoggle.”

 

Approval to continue was given by the newish NDP government, which surely shattered the faith of thousands of Left Coast socialists.

NDP voters must have expected things to be different with leftists in charge, but apparently they’re not.

Party politics aside, the coverage by The Canadian Press revealed some significant similarities between the B.C. boondoggle and the Labrador boondoggle.

Both projects are behind schedule and seriously over budget.

In B.C., as in Newfoundland, the chambers of commerce and boards of trade are gung-ho cheerleaders for digging and damming.

Site C was originally projected to cost $8.3 billion, but is now estimated at $10.7 billion.

Muskrat Falls, originally touted to be a bargain at $6.2 billion, is currently tagged at $12.7 billion.

It must be mere coincidence that the bean counters examining Boondoggle I and Boondoggle II each came up with figures ending in .7.

In B.C., as in Newfoundland, the chambers of commerce and boards of trade are gung-ho cheerleaders for digging and damming.

Site C will give B.C. a “competitive advantage,” said the B.C. Chamber of Commerce.

Site C “helps secure our energy system,” said the Vancouver Board of Trade.

It’s like an echo chamber 5,000 kilometres away. Newfoundlanders heard the same sort of tripe from business boards and chambers when Dam Danny was boosting Boondoggle I.

Strange, isn’t it, how the business crowd is eager to proclaim their authoritative expertise on issues such as power generation, public spending, government deficits and the dangers of a rising minimum wage, but they go eerily silent when the boondoggle goes bust.

The comparisons go only so far, though. The Canadian Press headline said the price of the Site C dam “soars to $10.7 billion.”

“Soars” is a relative term. Observers of the Labrador boondoggle might say the Site C cost “inches up.” After all, the B.C. dam’s cost went up a mere 29 per cent, compared to the projected price of Muskrat Falls being 105 per cent over its original estimate.

Hydroelectric hassles shouldn’t hinder these two have provinces. Have-province B.C. can easily pay for the Site C dam, with a cost of only $2,325 per resident.

“Have” province Newfoundland, on the other hand, faces a per-person cost of $24,050 for the Muskrat Falls dam.

Newfoundlanders need not worry, though, because their children and grandchildren will carry much of the financial burden. We must remember to thank them in advance.

But let’s not lose our sense of humour about it. After all, it’s only money. There’s no use crying over spilt milk, even if it is a tanker full.

Out west, NDP Premier John Horgan defended his government’s decision to continue building the Site C dam by saying people’s electricity bills would go up if the project were cancelled.

According to CP, cancellation “could also mean a one-time, 12 per cent rate hike that would last for a decade, Horgan said.”

The laughter coming out of Newfoundland must have been heard all the way to B.C.

Twelve per cent? They’re concerned about a 12 per cent rate hike? Newfoundlanders would laugh all the way to the bank — or, in some cases, to underneath their mattress — if they were told their rate increase would be only 12 per cent.

And the phrase “that would last for a decade” makes tears of mirth flow from Newfoundland eyes. Ten years? Try forever. Correct that: try 100 per cent rate increase forever. Oops, correct that again, because the 100 per cent increase will last only so long, until the increase eventually reaches 200 per cent.

Boondoggle II? Nah. British Columbians are amateurs.

 

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at bjones@thetelegram.com.

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