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OP/ED: MLA supports Waneta project but pans province's structure

 Word that the Waneta Expansion Project will go ahead is great news for residents of the Kootenays, providing many jobs and a boost to the local economy, but the B.C. Liberals made a bad deal for the long-term health of the region, say New Democrats.

“I’ve been saying for a long time that this project needs to happen. All the environmental assessments and agreements with First Nations are in place, and we’re looking at a lot of good, family-supporting jobs for the area. This project has been a long time coming, and it will provide crucial economic activity in the Kootenays,” said Katrine Conroy, New Democrat MLA for Kootenay West.

If the $900 million project moves forward as expected, up to 400 new jobs are estimated to be created.

“But I’m really disappointed that the energy minister decided to put private interests ahead of the interests of the people of this region and across the province,” said Conroy, noting that as the MLA for Kootenay East, it would be in Minister Bill Bennett’s constituents’ best interest to get the best deal for the region.

“Instead of figuring out a way to make sure the Columbia Basin Trust receives maximum benefit that it can bring to the people of the Kootenays, Minister Bennett deliberately handed majority control of the project and its profits to a private corporation,” Conroy added.

Fortis Inc. will hold a 51-per-cent interest in the project, with Columbia Power Corporation and Columbia Basin Trust holding the balance at 49 per cent.

“The Waneta expansion is the final project in the Columbia Basin Accord, and the agreement calls for all the projects to be done in the public interest by the Crown corporations set up for this very purpose. But the B.C. Liberals’ private-or-nothing ideology rules in this province, so instead we’re handing majority control of this public asset over into private hands,” said John Horgan, New Democrat energy critic.

“And where is B.C. Hydro? They are forced to spend billions on private power projects under the direction of the B.C. Liberal cabinet, they purchased a stake in the Waneta Dam last year for more than $800 million to help out Teck Cominco, but they are not able to work with the Columbia Power Corporation and the Columbia Basin Trust to build the Waneta expansion in the public interest,” said Horgan, noting that bringing in B.C. Hydro as a partner would make a lot more sense for the people of B.C.

“The B.C. Liberals will stop at nothing to undermine our public utilities and pay off their friends in the private sector. This deal takes a long-term benefit away from the people of the Columbia basin and all British Columbians and turns it over to private interests.”

The Carole James New Democrats are holding the B.C. Liberals accountable for their HST doublecross while working with British Columbians from all walks of life, all corners of B.C., and all sectors of our economy to build a better British Columbia for the people of this province.