B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver says he is counting on the NDP to deliver a speedy review of the Site C hydroelectric dam project even though the regulator that will carry out the assessment has not committed to the promised timeline.
An independent review of the government's megaproject was a crucial part of the accord the Greens signed last month to back an NDP minority government.
That arrangement has not been put to the test yet – the governing BC Liberals will not face a vote of confidence until at least June 29. But Mr. Weaver said he was assured the B.C. Utilities Commission could deliver an interim report within six weeks on the dam project, which his party wants scrapped.
Last week, Mr. Horgan said his team had already discussed a timetable for a review with the commission, but officials from the independent agency have denied that account.
This week, the BCUC said it is prepared to conduct a review if asked by the government. However, officials with the commission said they had only a "preliminary meeting" with the New Democrats on June 14 to explain its authority and processes when reviewing matters referred by government. There was no commitment to turning around a report in such a short time.
Mr. Weaver said it is part of the deal his party struck with the NDP, and he expects a review to be delivered within the promised time-frame.
"We came into the negotiations [with the NDP] with the position that Site C is economically reckless," Mr. Weaver told reporters on Thursday. "They wanted to send it to the BCUC. … In order for us to have an agreement, we would have had to have been assured that it could be done in a timely process."
The time limits were important to the Greens because the project is already under construction. Every month that passes, another $60-million has been spent, making it more unlikely it can be stopped.
Mr. Weaver said Mr. Horgan promised a review could be conducted in six weeks.
"John has said six weeks. Let us see what transpires. Our job as an opposition party is to hold government accountable."
"We will hold them accountable if it turns out to be six months. We will be asking very difficult questions," Mr. Weaver said.
The section of the NDP-Green accord that deals with Site C was the last piece of the bargain before Mr. Weaver and his caucus members would sign on. The Greens were suspicious that the NDP, with its strong base of support in the labour movement, would try to find a way to criticize the project without actually stopping it.
To allay the Greens' concerns, the NDP negotiating team produced a draft set of instructions to the regulator to reach a decision in six weeks, with a final report in three months. The review will be limited to specific questions about the budget and electricity demand.
In an unusual move, the BCUC issued a statement on Thursday saying it is "ready and able" to review the controversial project if asked by the provincial government.
Commission chair and chief executive officer David Morton said in a statement that "the terms of reference and the level of public engagement would determine how long such a review would take to complete."
The governing Liberals exempted Site C from review by the utilities commission – a regulatory agency responsible for the oversight of energy utilities. That decision ignored the recommendation of a federal-provincial joint review panel that examined the project.
The panel concluded in 2014 that the province will need more power in the future, and that the Site C dam appears to be the most economic solution with the smallest output of greenhouse-gas emissions.
However, the panel could not measure the true cost of the project nor whether B.C. will actually need all the power it would produce. It recommended that if provincial governments move ahead despite significant environmental impacts, further independent review on BC Hydro's cost estimates, energy demand forecasts and conservation plan would be needed.