British Columbia

BC Hydro set to sign Site C dam construction contract worth $1.5B

Fort St. John-based company is one in a consortium of contractors chosen as a preferred partner for the construction of the Site C dam.

Contract is the largest of the controversial $8.3-billion project

The Site C dam under construction in northern B.C. will flood a valley 80 kilometres long and create enough electricity to power half a million homes. (BC Hydro)

The controversial Site C construction project is one step closer to reality with BC Hydro choosing consortium Peace River Hydro Partners on Nov. 25 as its preferred partner in a $1.5-billion dollar contract to construct the dam near Fort St. John.

The eight-year main civil works contract is the largest single contract for the Site C project, which is expected to cost a total of $8.3 billion.

The contract is expected to be awarded by early 2016.

The Peace River Hydro Partners is a consortium made up of Acciona Infrastructure Canada, Samsung C&T Canada and Petrowest Corporation, which is based in Fort St. John.

Minister promises B.C. jobs

About 1,500 people are expected to be working on site by mid-2018. 

"We want British Columbians to get first dibs on the jobs," B.C. Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett told B.C. Almanac host Gloria Macarenko.

"There will be literally hundreds of subcontractors that will get work out of this, and they will be largely from British Columbia."

Bennett said the tender put out on the contract required bidders to guarantee First Nations workers, contractors and businesses would be given opportunities to work on the project.

He said Peace River Hydro Partners also has to commit to hiring local workers from all over B.C., but specifically in the northwest of the province.

"I'm quite comfortable in guaranteeing that this particular consortium that won this bid today is absolutely committed to finding local workers throughout the life cycle of the project, and to also doing its best to give opportunities to B.C. contractors, to B.C. companies. I'm absolutely convinced of that."

Bennett said using temporary foreign workers would be a last resort if no qualified Canadian worker could be found for a position.

Criticism of jobs plan

A statement released by the B.C. Building Trades, an umbrella organization for construction unions in B.C. and the Yukon, said that one in four workers currently on the site is from outside the province.

"It will get worse. Without a project labour agreement we doubt that B.C. workers will be given priority for Site C jobs," said executive director Tom Sigurdson in the statement.

Minister Bennett told B.C. Almanac that "right now about 80 per cent of the people working at Site C are from British Columbia."

"You hear there are lots of Alberta licence plates in that area, well a lot of people who were working in the oil patch have now come over and they're working again and living again in British Columbia."

B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan said the project should be put to the British Columbia Utilities Commission, an independent regulatory agency of the provincial government.

"I think British Columbia would be better off if the someone other than a Liberal told us this was a good idea," he said.

Horgan said that if his party were to be elected in the next provincial election, it would focus on creating jobs in other forms of energy, such as wind and solar power.

'We could create more jobs in more parts of the province with technology that's changing by the minute. That makes more sense than going back to a 1950s solution," he said.

"Our dams were the envy of the world. They continue to be a significant advantage to us. But building another one will alienate farmland, alienate the First Nations and spend money we don't have that we'll have to pay back in the long term."

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: Energy Minister Bill Bennett promises $1.5-billion Site C construction contract will bring jobs to B.C.


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