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Nine-in-ten residents favour investing in energy efficiency measures and adding more wind, solar and geothermal power to the grid.

Vancouver, BC — British Columbians want BC Hydro’s Site C dam sent for an independent review and support stopping construction on the project while alternatives are investigated, a new poll by Insights West has found.

It found that 73 per cent of British Columbians support sending the Site C dam for an independent review of both costs and demand, as recommended by the Joint Review Panel in its 2014 report. That includes 63 per cent of BC Liberal voters in 2013 and 83 per cent of those who last voted for the BC New Democratic Party (NDP).


In addition, 70 per cent of respondents supported pausing construction of Site C to investigate alternatives to meet future power demand.

“When pondering Site C, British Columbians are favouring caution and not hubris,” said Mario Canseco, Vice President of Public Affairs at Insights West. “Most are willing to switch the focus to efficiency and alternative sources.”

Construction on the $8.8 billion Site C dam started in 2015 and is scheduled for completion in 2024. The project has been plagued by court challenges and questions about cost and demand from high-profile experts, including Harry Swain, the man who chaired the federal-provincial panel on Site C.

Survey results suggest British Columbians prefer taking a more measured approach to the project, which Premier Christy Clark has promised to get to “the point of no return.”

BC Hydro has indicated that the province will not need new power until 2028 at the earliest. If demand for more power arises in the future, nine-in-ten British Columbians support investing in energy efficiency measures (92 per cent) and adding more wind, solar and geothermal power to the grid as needed (also 92 per cent). Just over a third (37 per cent) favour building large hydro dams.

The Joint Review Panel found the province had failed to investigate alternatives to building the Site C dam, such as geothermal energy. According to BC Hydro’s own estimates, geothermal could replace two-thirds of the power that could be generated by the Site C dam. Seventy-seven per cent of British Columbians support investing in geothermal (40 per cent “strongly”) rather than building a large hydro dam.

The survey was sponsored by readers of DeSmog Canada, an independent online magazine focused on energy and environment.

“When presented with the facts about demand and real alternatives, British Columbians overwhelmingly support alternatives to building the Site C dam,” said Emma Gilchrist, executive director of DeSmog Canada. “Looking at what’s happening with the Muskrat Falls dam in Labrador, it seems prudent for B.C. politicians to proceed with caution.”

The cost of Muskrat Falls has ballooned to $11.4 billion, up $4 billion since 2012. For the average homeowner, it’s estimated this will add an extra $150 per month in power costs. The CEO of the province’s power corporation, Nalcor, has said power demand forecasts were off and the dam was not the right choice for the power needs of the province.
The Insights West poll found more British Columbians outright oppose the dam (44 per cent, 21 per cent strongly) than support it (39 per cent, 11 per cent strongly).

About Insights West:

Insights West is a progressive, Western-based, full-service marketing research company. It exists to serve the market with insights-driven research solutions and interpretive analysis through leading-edge tools, normative databases, and senior-level expertise across a broad range of public and private sector organizations. Insights West is based in Vancouver and Calgary.

About this Release:

Results are based on an online study conducted by Insights West from October 27 to October 30, 2016, among 821 adult residents of British Columbia. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in British Columbia. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.5 percentage points, nineteen times out of twenty.

Click here to view the data tabulations and here to view the factum.

For more information, please contact:

Mario Canseco
Vice President, Public Affairs, Insights West

Emma Gilchrist
Executive Director, DeSmog Canada


Photograph: Emma Gilchrist, DeSmog Canada