We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.
BC Politics

The Evidence Adds Up: Site C Is Still a Train Wreck

Scientific, economic, accounting and legal arguments outweigh the beliefs of unions and ‘sentimental capitalists.’

By Andrew Nikiforuk 30 Mar 2018 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew Nikiforuk is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about the energy industry for two decades and is a contributing editor to The Tyee. Find his previous stories here.

In his passionate defence of the NDP government’s decision to proceed with the construction of the Site C dam, Brian Cochrane, business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers, has made one good point.

He argues that the Tyee has published endless articles against the controversial dam and not much in favour of the project.

He’s right about that, and the Tyee has not served its readers well by omitting such points of view.

But then Cochrane launches into a tirade against the Leap Manifesto. He suggests that anyone who has criticized Site C, such as this author, must be an advocate of this plan to reduce GHG emissions. I am not.

He then declares that dams are “clean and green.”

In defending the megaproject, Cochrane seems to be what Wendell Berry would call a “sentimental capitalist.”

Sentimental capitalism posits that everything small, natural, local and beautiful must be sacrificed in the interest of megaprojects which, sometime in the future, will deliver unprecedented security and prosperity. As a bonus, the project will even reduce GHG emissions, claims Cochrane.

Now I can understand why construction unions love mega-projects because they mostly go over budget and over schedule and rarely deliver their promised benefits.

Even Oxford business professors now describe megaprojects as dubious gravy trains for a select few.

Once upon a time unions just didn’t think about jobs for their members but considered the broader public interest, the health of our democracy and the integrity of Crown agencies designed to serve the public.  

My job as a journalist is to consider all these things and to monitor power and the centres of power, whether they be right or left leaning, Liberal, New Democrat or Green. 

The best scientific evidence suggests that dams are fiscal train wrecks, and that prudent governments should pursue small and more agile alternatives.

The best environmental evidence suggests that small and localized energy projects serve communities better than giant, centralized ones.

The best accounting evidence suggests that BC Hydro now carries a $20-billion debt and is in serious trouble — and that’s not counting Site C’s ever rising bill: now $12-billion.

The best energy evidence suggests that there is no such thing as clean or green energy and that all forms of energy come with ecological and moral costs.

The best economic evidence shows that dams in Newfoundland and Manitoba have gone crazily overbudget and created a fiscal calamity for their citizens.

The best legal evidence suggests that the B.C. government has not honoured Treaty 8 in any shape or form.

The best political evidence suggests that the government is not building Site C to power 450,000 homes but instead wants to provide “clean” energy for oil and gas companies so they frack shale rock and pretend that the export of liquefied natural gas is somehow “clean.”

Until I find evidence to the contrary, I shall continue to report on Site C as a slow-moving fiscal and moral train wreck for the province and the country.  [Tyee]

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Get The Tyee in your inbox

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Do not:

  •  Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully, threaten, name-call or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, downvote, or flag suspect activity
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls and flag violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Stay on topic
  • Connect with each other


The Barometer

How are you making it through social distancing?

Take this week's poll