British Columbia

B.C. auditor general set to scrutinize Site C dam project

The government watchdog won't be reviewing NDP decision to move forward with dam, but other areas open.

Watchdog won't review NDP decision to move forward with dam, but other areas open

Carol Bellringer said she is interested in many aspects of the Site C dam. (Auditor General of British Columbia)

B.C.'s auditor general has set her sights on the Site C dam in northeast B.C., although she isn't yet sure which aspect of the mega-project her team will be scrutinizing.

"It's such a complex project," said Carol Bellringer, who released her 2018-19 priorities plan Wednesday.

Bellringer said many of the questions her office had about Site C were answered in the B.C. Utilities Commission analysis released last year, but she believes the dam's construction still requires outside oversight.

"It's the largest construction project that you've ever seen in British Columbia," she said. "It's really hard to argue... there isn't some aspect that we shouldn't be scrutinizing."

Construction trucks hauling dirt at the Site C dam site. (Christer Waara/CBC)

B.C. Hydro says the dam will be completed on a budget of $8.3 billion, but the utilities commission estimates the cost could be over $10 billion.

Bellringer said her team will meet in the coming weeks to narrow their focus. 

Critics of the project have asked her to review the NDP's decision to allow dam construction to move forward, but Bellringer said that falls outside her mandate.

Otherwise, "it really could be any aspect at all of the project," she said.

"In terms of the size, the significance, the impact on taxpayers, the impact on rate payers, it's all very much of interest and importance from our perspective."

A spokesperson for BC Hydro said they will work "collaboratively" with the auditor general.

Other priorities for the auditor general's office in 2018-19 include the mental health of post-secondary students, RCMP contracts and cancer care access. Other projects, including the George Massey Tunnel replacement, have been removed from the office's list.