B.C.’s Premier John Horgan and energy minister Bruce Ralston took a trip to Fort St. John this week, and despite several phone calls to their respective offices, the Energeticcity newsroom received very vague information on the Site C visit and was denied access to speak with the minister.
After receiving word of the visit, immediately I had one of the Energeticcity reporters reach out to the office of the premier and the energy ministry to see if there was an opportunity to chat with the politicians.
Eventually, after several calls, we were informed that Horgan wasn’t available for media, however, Ralston would be able to chat the day after the premier left.
The whole situation seemed very much like it was supposed to be a secret. Usually, when these visits take place, media, or at least the local MLA, receive notice even if there is no availability for interviews.
Our local MLA Dan Davies wasn’t even officially notified of the visit.
Despite the frustration of not being able to speak with Horgan on a plethora of questions we had on his first visit to Site C, we let it go.
We had an opportunity to speak with Ralston, that will work, I thought, this way we could get the NDP’s thoughts on the project, no matter how much red tape was wrapped around his answers.
It was also Ralston’s first visit to the dam site.
Having mainly conservative representation in Fort St. John, this was a way to get answers from the other side of the political spectrum without phoning in to a virtual teleconference based out of Victoria. Which means we wouldn’t have to fight with every other media outlet in the province to speak to provincial officials on issues affecting our region.
That thought process went out the window once, Grace, an Energeticcity reporter, was denied access to speak with Ralston by a security guard asking for credentials at the Site C lookout Thursday morning.
Grace just started in the newsroom this week and only had a generic Energeticcity media pass and her license — she was still not allowed in, unlike other local outlets.
I have never been asked for identification as a member of the media in Fort St. John or even when I met with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe while working for an outlet in Lloydminster.
Now, this could be one big misunderstanding, but they knew we were coming. After several phone calls to the ministry Thursday morning, we finally spoke with the energy minister at 1:30 p.m. Our questions were still not answered.
We also have still not heard from the premier’s office.
We just want the same opportunities as every other media outlet to provide timely, informative news to our readership. We also want to ask political officials important questions for our readers and the region.
How can we do that when our own province makes it hard to do so?
As much as it pains me to say (being a competitive person), at least other local outlets were able to speak to these officials. I am fine with that.
Horgan’s office informed us that he will not speak to media while in Fort St. John, which is a slap in the face to the people of this region.
This was a very rare visit and opportunity, and yet local journalists had to seemingly put in the extra work to try and speak with the premier of our province, who didn’t want to speak with them.
The tight lips of Horgan’s government are, however, not a secret to most residents and media, especially after being a recipient of The Canadian Association of Journalists’ Code of Silence award in 2021 after introducing an Act to amend B.C.’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
While I wasn’t born and raised here, I have worked in this region for a year and a half and have found it hard to not follow the same thought process of almost every other local: the NDP government does not care about the north.
With so many concerns surrounding the environmental impacts, the repeatedly changed budget, and timeline, Horgan’s government refused to talk with the human beings that are directly affected by the Site C project, and that is a shame.
Horgan is a representative of this region, and speaking with local media is a way to communicate with residents of Northeast B.C.