John Horgan disappoints both Site C opponents and supporters in northeast B.C.

Opponents of the Site C dam say they are "devastated" by the premier's decision to move forward with the project, while supporters say the NDP leader's handling of the decision is unlikely to win him future votes.

By reluctantly moving forward with the project, the B.C. NDP made few friends in Fort St. John

Ken and Arlene Boon stand outside the house her grandfather built in the Peace River valley in the 1940s. After decades of fighting the proposal, the pair will likely have to leave the home to make way for the Site C dam. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Premier John Horgan managed to disappoint both supporters and opponents of the Site C dam in northeast B.C. when he reluctantly approved the continuation of the multi-billion-dollar project on Monday. 

Ken Boon, who lives a short distance from the dam site, said he was "devastated" by the decision to move ahead with the dam's construction.

"We've had a lot of let-downs on this project. This was probably the toughest," said Boon, whose longtime home will likely be moved to make way for the controversial dam. 

A stand of trees was removed from what was the Boon's property before it was expropriated by BC Hydro. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Along with his wife Arlene, Boon has been the face of the fight against Site C since it was put back on the table by the B.C. Liberals in 2010. The family first faced off against the dam when Arlene's grandfather refused to sell his land to BC Hydro for an earlier version of the project in the 1960s. 

Christy [Clark] didn't get us past the point of no return, but John Horgan is about to.- Site C opponent Ken Boon

The pair was involved in a series of failed court cases against the dam, and almost exactly one year ago, they were told they no longer owned their property — a portion had been expropriated by BC Hydro to make way for the dam.

"I cried," Arlene Boon said of that day.

"You're walking on the floor of your grandfather's house that you don't own... expropriation is a brutal process."

The pair hoped the new NDP government would cancel Site C in the wake of an independent B.C. Utilities Commission review of the project's projected overruns. 

That was not to be. Although Horgan said Site C "is not the project we would have favoured or would have started, it must be completed," citing the effect on energy prices if the project was cancelled.

Ken Boon said he felt "very bitter" about the news.

"Christy [Clark] didn't get us past the point of no return, but John Horgan is about to," he said.

"If you're a B.C. NDPer who voted for them to do the right thing on Site C, you're going to be disgusted."

'He should be excited'

Even supporters of Site C in northeast B.C. said their opinions of the NDP were not changed by Horgan's decision, arguing it was, in fact, the B.C. Liberals who got Site C to a point of no return.

Business owner and Fort St. John Chamber of Commerce board member Ramona McDonald said Horgan's announcement was "good news for a lot of people dependent on jobs," but the way Horgan presented his decision was a let-down.

"His reluctance... was disappointing," she said.

"He should be excited that we can proceed with something of this value in B.C."

Art Jarvis, executive director of the Independent Business and Contractors Association of B.C. and a longtime Fort St. John resident, said he was glad construction would continue, but also criticized the way Horgan framed the announcement.

"He made the statement that it's not a project they would have started," he said. 

Still, Jarvis said many families tied to the project would be relieved by the news.

"It could have been a blue Christmas," he said.

Others in the city expressed support for Horgan's decision.

Businessman and community organizer Alan Yu posted a message to the Facebook group "Fort St. John for LNG" thanking the NDP for approving the dam.

"This decision gives us an idea of Horgan's and the NDP's decision making process. There are no needless delays and [the] decision is ultimately based on what is good for B.C."

On Twitter, Fort St. John Coun. Trevor Bolin wrote, "Not an easy decision... but a necessary one."

Challenges to come

Elsewhere, the Prophet River and West Moberly First Nations promised to take the government to court, arguing Site C is a violation of the 1899 Treaty No. 8 agreement.

Ken Boon said he is hopeful challenges from Indigenous groups or defections from NDP and Green Party MLAs could still kill Site C.

"We're not packing up yet," he said.

About the Author

Andrew Kurjata

@akurjata

Andrew Kurjata is a radio producer and digital journalist in northern British Columbia, situated in the traditional territory of the Lheidli T'enneh in Prince George.