Victoria – Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming, who also serves as a minister of education, defended his government’s recent decision to push ahead with the controversial Site C hydro-power project in northern British Columbia.
“If it was just about politics, it would have been easy [to cancel it],” said Fleming, when asked whether New Democrats missed an opportunity to make a signature decision as a new government. “But it is about looking at the best interests, even in a bad situation, of British Columbians,” he said. “We will have more to say about how we might mitigate Site C to become a better project, and to address the First Nations’ and environmental concerns, and the loss of agricultural lands [in 2018].”
Fleming made those comments, as the provincial New Democrats approach six months in office.
Their route into the halls of power was circuitous, after the provincial election of May 9, 2011 had reduced the ruling B.C. Liberals to 43 seat. This outcome created a scenario that eventually allowed the New Democrats to assume power following a confidence vote on June 29 during which the three members of the B.C. Green Party voted with the New Democrats under a confidence-and-supply agreement to last four years.
The current cabinet including Fleming and Saanich South MLA as minister of agriculture assumed their posts July 18.
“Site C, by far, is the most difficult decision we have had to make to date as a government,” he said. “It required a lot of debate and information. At the end of the day, there was no ideal decision, and it was a decision we would have never made. But in terms of a project, at $4 billion dollars, and 25 per cent completed, at the end of the day, it was hard to walk away from a project that was that far along.”
Fleming said his government got left with a “number of messes on a number of fronts” including B.C. Hydro.