The Liberal government has “stonewalled” a veteran Member of Parliament’s request for information explaining its rational for issuing construction permits to B.C. Hydro for its controversial hydroelectric project at Site C, on the province’s northeastern Peace River, the National Observer reports.
MP Charlie Angus (NDP-Timmins-James Bay) said he filed an access to information request asking “why the federal government announced it was issuing the [required] fisheries permits on July 29, before a long weekend last summer.”
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Access to information legislation, the Observer notes, “requires the government to respond within 30 days.” Instead, “the Justice Department told Angus that it would need an extra 960 days, which would mean that the information might not be available until 2019, around the time of the next federal election.”
“The Justice Department has just given us a stone wall (saying) we will perhaps let you see behind the wall in 960 days,” Angus told the Observer. “They need to justify this. Why are they creating a protective wall?”
“The federal Liberals had previously agreed to make this type of information public,” recalls the Observer’s Mike De Souza, “when they accepted recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, that was investigating how Canada mistreated First Nations people in residential schools.”
Two First Nations—Prophet River and West Moberly—have launched a federal court challenge against the $9-billion project, which would flood their traditional territory along with farmland under an 83-kilometre long reservoir. A poll conducted in October by Insights West on behalf of DeSmog.ca found that more than 70% of British Columbians now want the project “sent for an independent review, and support pausing construction while alternatives are investigated.”
Even the chair of the federal-provincial panel that recommended in favour of the project has subsequently changed his mind, declaring that the power it will produce will not be needed “for decades.” That output has also been estimated to cost at least three times the least-expensive alternatives, including wind and solar.
The survey indicating the breadth of doubt among British Columbians about the project’s benefits bolstered resolve among its opponents.
“We’re not too late to either cancel or suspend Site C while a full and impartial, objective review is taken,” said Marc Eliesen, an especially sharp critic who has served as chair or CEO of three provincial power utilities: BC Hydro, Manitoba Hydro and Ontario Hydro.
“There have been a number of major hydro developments in Canada that were subsequently cancelled when the forecasts that came out two to three years later were different than the ones used to justify the project.”