'Not the outcome I would have liked': B.C. energy minister addresses broken Site C promises

B.C.'s Energy Minister Michelle Mungall responds to criticism that she broke an election promise to end the controversial Site C dam, calling the decision to proceed "a very difficult" one.

In 2016, NDP MLA Michelle Mungall told voters 'we will work to end Site C'

Michelle Mungall, now B.C.'s energy minister, tells demonstrators in 2016 that an NDP government would work work 'to stop the Site C dam.' (YouTube)

A day after her government announced it would proceed with the controversial Site C hydroelectric dam, B.C.'s energy minister is addressing criticism that she broke election promises.

"It's not OK to flood 80,000 hectares of agricultural land ... if we're government, then our plan is to go through the B.C. Utilities Commission and we will work to end Site C," said NDP MLA Michelle Mungall in a video from 2016, ahead of the provincial election.

"Our desire is to stop the Site C dam," said Mungall who represents the Kootenay riding of Nelson-Creston in southeastern B.C.

Now, as the provinces' energy minister, Mungall calls the controversial decision to proceed with the project a "very difficult" one, but says it is in the best interest of British Columbians.

'This was not easy'

"I am not thrilled or happy about the decision that we had to make," said Mungall on Tuesday.

"This was not easy ... it's not the outcome I would have liked by any stretch."

The NDP government on Monday decided to continue building the dam on the Peace River in northeastern B.C. — which will displace farmers and flood Indigenous lands — rather than stop work  part way through the job.

Bob Peever of BC Hydro gives a tour of the Site C Dam location near Fort St. John in April, 2017. The dam's completion would flood 5,500 hectares of the Peace River Valley and provide energy to power the equivalent of around 500,000 homes. (Jonathon Hayward/Canadian Press)

Mungall said the NDP government did "appropriate analysis" following a report on Site C from the B.C. Utilities Commission.

She did not say whether she voiced concerns about the project as the government was reaching its conclusion.

"Our decision was not based on what might be easy ... it was based on what's the long-term best interest for British Columbians. And I stand by that framework."

Green Party leader suggests recall campaign

Green Party leader Andrew Weaver has suggested a recall campaign against Mungall in light of her change in attitude.

"When people are told one thing and that has convinced them to vote the way they did ... they feel betrayed," said Weaver, calling Site C a "purely political decision."

"There are many people right now who feel saddened and betrayed and they want an avenue ... to express their frustration."

"I appreciate that Mr. Weaver often shares his views ... on Twitter, but I think this is more serious than that," responded Mungall.

An estimated $2 billion has been spent so far on the dam, approved by B.C.'s previous Liberal government in 2014.

The government now expects the dam, originally budgeted at $8.3 billion, to cost approximately $10.7 billion to complete.

Listen to more from Michelle Mungall by clicking the link below:

B.C.'s Energy Minister Michelle Mungall addresses criticism that she broke election promises on the controversial Site C dam. 9:07

With files from CBC's Daybreak South.

About the Author

Jaimie Kehler

Jaimie Kehler is a web writer, producer and broadcaster based in Kelowna, B.C. She has also worked for CBC News in Toronto and Ottawa. To contact her with a story, email jaimie.kehler@cbc.ca.