As the cheers fade from the B.C. NDP convention over the weekend, Premier John Horgan has to get back to the pressing issue of oil pipeline and electricity grid expansions that don’t match up with his neighbouring NDP government in Alberta.
In his speech to delegates at the B.C. NDP convention in Victoria Saturday, Horgan touched on the independent report he received last week on the Site C dam project. A B.C. Utilities Commission panel confirmed the third dam on the Peace River is over budget and behind schedule, which was admitted at the hearings by B.C. Hydro CEO Chris O’Riley.
Horgan has imposed a deadline on cabinet to decide by the end of 2017 whether to stop the $10 billion project or complete it. A C.D. Howe Institute analysis of the commission’s findings made the decision more complicated, pointing out that the BCUC ignored Alberta, where NDP Premier Rachel Notley is preparing to shut down coal-fired power plants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“If B.C. and Alberta were one province, Site C would be a no-brainer,” wrote Blake Shaffer, a C.D. Howe fellow and former electricity trader at B.C. Hydro’s subsidiary Powerex.
In his speech, Horgan criticized private power contracts signed by the previous B.C. Liberal government, saying “ideological policy choices” led to too much run-of-river power and not enough wind and solar capacity.
Taking questions from reporters after his speech, Horgan sidestepped the question of his disagreement with Notley over the twinning of the TransMountain pipeline from Alberta to its Burnaby marine terminal. He reiterated his opposition to increased oil tanker traffic on the B.C. coast.
Asked about the new federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s s position on TransMountain, Horgan replied, “I don’t take orders from Jagmeet, and he doesn’t take orders from me.”
Horgan received several standing ovations during his convention speech, where he said the minority government supported by three B.C. Green MLAs will lead to better government, because he has to find “compromise and consensus” to stay in office.
B.C. Liberal MLA Steve Thomson was at the NDP convention as an observer. Thomson said Horgan’s speech was notable for what was not in it, including a firm commitment to deliver $10-a-day child care and ride-sharing service to compete with taxis in urban areas.
Thomson called on Horgan to set an early date for a by-election in Kelowna West, where former premier Christy Clark resigned her seat after her government was defeated by the NDP-Green alliance in July.