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A tale of two Site C polls

Six months after BC Hydro-commissioned poll finds majority support Site C, opponent-backed poll finds the opposite
A canoe on the Peace River at this year's Paddle for the Peace, a Site C dam protest. A new poll has found a majority of British Columbians support further review of Site C.

A majority of British Columbians support hitting the pause button on the controversial Site C dam project, a new poll has found. 

According to an Insights West poll released Nov. 16, 73 per cent of B.C. residents support halting construction and sending the $8.8 billion BC Hydro project to an independent review while the province investigates alternative sources of electricity.   

The poll was commissioned by readers of DeSmog Canada, an online news magazine critical of the project. DeSmog’s founder and board chair also serves as chair of the David Suzuki foundation. 

Pollsters found 63 per cent of respondents who voted for the governing B.C. Liberal party supported additional Site C review, while 83 per cent of B.C. NDP backers favoured halting the dam.  

The poll’s results are in stark contrast to a BC Hydro-commissioned poll released in June, which found a majority of British Columbians support building Site C. 

While the results of that poll were largely favourable for BC Hydro—it found 49 per cent fully back the project with another 24 per cent supporting its conditionally—critics say pollsters skewed the results by asking respondents if they supported Site C “to help meet rising demand for electricity in B.C.” The BC Hydro commissioned poll was carried out by Abacus Data. 

Opponents of the project, which would flood 83 kilometres of the Peace River Valley, say BC Hydro has not proven it needs electricity from Site C on its current timetable. They point to slackening demand from industrial electricity customers, as well as a proposal to sell power to Alberta as evidence B.C. is moving too quickly on the 1,100-megawatt project.

Earlier this year, Energy Minister Bill Bennett said he had “no doubt” energy demand “will continue to grow significantly in the years ahead.” Demand is bolstered by the recent approval of Woodfibre LNG, a liquefied natural gas processing facility near Squamish that will plug into the BC Hydro grid.  

Marc Eliesen, a BC Hydro CEO under B.C. NDP Premier Mike Harcourt, believes Site C should be reviewed by the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC), the province’s independent electricity regulator.   

“It’s totally unprecedented, that you would have an almost $10-billion project…  (and) not have undertaken an objective, impartial review,” he said “I’m not aware of a project of this magnitude that has not been subject to such a review.” 

He said a BCUC review would challenge “internal biases that develop within a company in putting forward a project.”

The DeSmog poll relied on 821 online respondents to an online study. One thousand people were surveyed by phone for the BC Hydro-commissioned poll.