FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Premier Christy Clark was in Fort St. John today to meet with workers and businesses that are working on the Site C dam as well as their families to show her support for the $8.8 billion project on the Peace River.
The Premier made the trip on short notice this morning, and met with families of workers that are both directly and indirectly working on the dam to hear their stories. Clark said that during the last provincial election, there wasn’t a strong understanding in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island about the project, and she wanted to hear how they are depending on being employed in building the dam in order to share those with residents in Southern B.C.
Clark said that she heard from a family that nearly lost their house during the slowdown in the oil and gas industry, and another with a member that is regularly travelling to Vancouver regularly for medical treatment. She says that both of those families would have suffered were it not for their members finding work on the project.
When asked about issues that have been raised locally in recent weeks regarding the realignment of Highway 29, Clark said that BC Hydro has been planning the realignment for ten years, while the discovery of a potential First Nations gravesite that is due to be covered by the new road was only discovered last June. She explained that BC Hydro chose the best path for the realignment at the time, and that the Crown Corporation is working with First Nations to confirm that it is in fact a First Nations burial ground, and how to align the highway appropriately if that turns out to be the case.
“The basis for this project going forward has been a respectful relationship with First Nations from the very beginning,” said Clark. “There are hundreds and hundreds of First Nations community members, some of whom were here with us today, who are working on the site supporting their families.” When asked about the letter that was written to the Premier on June 7th by West Moberly First Nation Chief Roland Willson and Prophet River First Nation Chief Lynette Tsakoza about the realignment, Clark said that while she hasn’t yet replied, she does intend to respond to their concerns.
On the topic of Green Party leader Andrew Weaver and members of his caucus visiting with families and First Nations leaders opposed to Site C in Fort St. John today, Clark said that she hoped that Weaver also had a chance to meet with families benefitting from employment on the dam. Weaver was scheduled to meet today with leaders of the CLAC, the union that represents workers employed by Peace River Hydro Partners on Site C, though it is not known if local workers would attend the meeting. Clark said that she also plans to meet with residents opposed to the dam, and added that she hopes to set up a meeting with Weaver, who she said has led opposition to Site C, later this week.
Clark concluded by saying that the NDP and Greens’ plans to halt construction and refer Site C to the B.C. Utilities Commission mean that the construction would last at least one year, since a proper review would take at least that amount of time. She says that the one-year delay would add over $600 million to the dam’s budget, effectively killing the project.
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