Almost exactly a year ago, B.C. Hydro touted “broad support” for its controversial Site C dam — a mega hydro dam on the Peace River that would flood 107 kilometres of river valley, forcing farmers and First Nations off their land.
Now, as besieged Premier Christy Clark puts all her spin doctoring powers to work to attempt to save the dam from being canned, new polling from Angus Reid shows that more British Columbians want to review or cancel the project than want to let the project go ahead.
Those numbers are pretty remarkable when you consider that Site C is already almost two years into construction and BC Hydro has put considerable resources into quieting critical media coverage of the project.
Back in 2013 only four in 10 British Columbians had even heard of the $9 billion mega project. Now public opinion on the Site C dam is neck and neck with that on Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline, with equivalent numbers of British Columbians supporting cancelling the projects or sending them for further review.
B.C. Hydro hinged public support for the project on the premise of growing electricity demand, a notion critics like Site C Joint Review Panel Harry Swain and analysts from UBC have argued is unfounded.
Since 2005, demand for electricity in B.C. has flatlined. According to a new report by the Program on Water Governance at UBC, B.C. Hydro has curtailed energy saving measures in order to drive up electricity consumption and manufacture demand for Site C.
Reader-funded polling commissioned by DeSmog Canada last fall indicated that if demand for more power arises in the future, nine in ten British Columbians support investing in energy efficiency measures (92 per cent) and adding more wind, solar and geothermal power to the grid as needed (also 92 per cent). Just over a third (37 per cent) favour building large hydro dams.
The same poll indicated 73 per cent of British Columbians support sending the Site C dam for an independent review of both costs and demand, something the NDP-Green alliance has vowed to do immediately upon taking power.
Image: Site C construction on the banks of the Peace River. Photo: Garth Lenz | DeSmog Canada