Wednesday, September 20, 2017

MLA Rice responds on Site C observations and themes of energy as part of Legislature discussion

MLA Rice spoke on Site C and
other energy issues on Monday
While most of her allotted speaking time at the Legislature has involved statements of note and thanks to those who battled the province's forest fires this summer, this week saw North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice get some of the feel for the back and forth of debate, this time as a member of the government side.

Ms. Rice was tasked to face some of the Opposition Liberal statements on BC Hydro's Site C development on Monday, responding to observations from Dan Davies the MLA for Peace River North.

Ms. Rice provided the rebuttal to the Opposition Liberal MLA's comments about the fate of the mega project in his constituency, as she did Ms. Rice stepped into some controversy over some of her rhetorical flourishes, with NDP member cautioned  a number of times by the Speaker for the tone and content of her commentary.

One of our first acts as government was to ask the British Columbia Utilities Commission to review the Site C project to ensure that this project is in the public interest and to keep hydro rates affordable. This is something that should have been done from the get-go.

A responsible government with the best interests of British Columbians in mind would have sent this project to the BCUC before spending a penny of taxpayers' money. In fact, that is what is always supposed to happen. And that is the job of the independent commission. Instead, the former B.C. Liberal government exempted this project from independent oversight for their own political purposes.

In fact, the former B.C. Liberal Premier, Christy Clark, stated that, no matter what the cost to the people of B.C., it was her goal to get it past the point of no return. Is that the vision the member opposite is speaking about honourable speaker? That was wrong. The B.C. Liberal government was looking out for their own best interests, not the people of British Columbia.

The NDP parliamentary secretary then pivoted on the theme of Site C to highlight some of the NDP's ambitions for energy efficiency and conservation programs, an area that perhaps she was more comfortable in exploring.

But, no matter what, energy policy needs to be in the best interests of the people of British Columbia. That's why our government will drive innovation, expand energy efficiency and conservation programs, generate new energy responsibly and sustainably and create lasting jobs across the province, not just in the northeast corner of the province. B.C.'s public buildings need upgrading honourable speaker.

We will create thousands of jobs across the province retrofitting public buildings, such as schools and hospitals, as well as industrial and commercial buildings and private homes. Retrofits will save the taxpayer millions of dollars by reducing the energy needs of our schools and hospitals, as well as reducing the amount of carbon offsets they need to purchase. Retrofits will also save businesses and individuals money on their energy bills and increase property values.

 Conserving energy is the most efficient way to meet B.C.'s energy needs. And energy-efficient retrofits create twice as many jobs as building a new dam, and the jobs are long-lasting, good-paying and close to home in every community across B.C.

B.C. can become a world leader in clean energy by investing in wind, solar and other renewable energy sources. These technologies are becoming cheaper and more efficient every year, and wind and solar projects are providing an ever-increasing amount of power in jurisdictions around the world. 

The previous Liberal government made B.C. so unfriendly for investment in these kinds of green energy projects that the Renewable Energy Associations of B.C. left B.C.

To further her points, she expanded on  the opportunities for the province when it comes to wind, solar and other energy initiative. Noting how the province needs to think big and look to the future, and allow BC Hydro the flexibility to pursue such options to meet the provinces energy needs, in partnership with First Nations and clan energy providers.

A situation she suggested which will position BC to become a world leader in alternative energy and climate change solutions.

Ms. Rice's contribution to the debate didn't seem to sway the MLA for the Peace very much however, with Davies noting that with development of Site C, would come the financial resources to deliver on social programs and infrastructure development in the Northeast.

As well, the Peace MLA, who like Ms. Rice had been reproached by the Speaker as to some of his commentary, took note that part of the agreements related to the project included financial benefits for the communities located nearby.

Peace River North MLA
Dan Davies on themes of the
Site C development
For example, in June 2013, B.C. Hydro and the Peace River regional district reached an agreement for regional legacy benefits associated with the operation of Site C. 

B.C. Hydro will provide an annual payment of $2.4 million to the regional districts and its member communities for a period of 70 years once Site C is operational — an index to inflation. 

In April 2016, B.C. Hydro and the city of Fort St. John concluded a community measures agreement for Site C. These measures include $1 million per year to the city of Fort St. John during construction, increased by 3.5 percent each year. 

This is in recognition of the city's unique position as a regional service centre for the North Peace Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities and the proximity of the dam to our community, which is only seven kilometres.

He also called attention to the opportunities that economic growth would deliver for such areas as housing, day care and regional non profit organizations in the North Peace.

That theme of a better return for local communities, should have been one that resonated somewhat with the North Coast MLA, who as recently as the spring election campaign made some passionate defences about the need for more benefits for communities in the Northwest from any form of resource development.

You can review the full exchange from the Legislature through the Monday morning record here, the conversation starts at the around the 10:20 point.

The video of the discussion to the theme is found on the Monday  morning Chamber Video.

For more notes related to discussion and debate in the Legislature see our archive page here .

A larger overview of events in Victoria can be reviewed on our political portal D'Arcy McGee.

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