The Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) has launched a new campaign to connect people with those working on the Site C Dam project near Fort St. John, B.C.
The union represents around 700 Site C workers and came up with the idea to profile the "People of Site C" as a way encourage support for the megaproject as B.C.'s new NDP government is expected to make a decision on continuing or scrapping it entirely next month.
"People of Site C connects British Columbians to the project through photos and stories of Site C workers," said Ryan Bruce, CLAC spokesperson. "It's important to tell the stories of the workers building this project as they often get overlooked in the midst of the political debate."
The project features photographs and brief interviews with Site C workers — like Harley Davis who had to learn English by himself as a child to go to school.
"My parents separated when I was three years old, and my grandpa took me in," Davis told CLAC. "By the time I was five or six, he was out by the trapline in the winter time so I was taking care of myself. I was snaring rabbits and I was killing grouse and I was feeding the horses."
Sean Cockell is another featured worker who has turned his time in camp at the project to learn new skills.
"I picked up a guitar about two years ago," said Cockell in an interview for the campaign. "It was just one of those things on the bucket list. My friends all played guitar when I was younger, so I figured now was no better time to learn than any, so I just decided to make it a hobby. I take the guitar with me to camp and for the most part, when I'm there, I just play guitar and go to the gym. It's long days, so I don't have time for much more than that."
So far the project website, peopleofsitec.ca, has profiled eight workers.
As the decision on the project gets closer, Bruce said CLAC plans to release more. He explained that CLAC wanted to humanize the workers by getting them to open up about their lives and hobbies.
"The uncertainty is what is most frustrating," said Bruce of Site C, noting many workers uprooted their lives and families with the promise of long-term work. "To continue to be in limbo is not a great place to be. At the end of the day this was one of the most reviewed projects out there. It has been reviewed for the past 15 years. More than two years into construction, we are not thrilled with the decision to review it. We are all hoping here that they will make the right decision and continue on with the project."
In addition to writing letters to Premier John Horgan and Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver, CLAC has met with the Green Party caucus and made presentations at multiple British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC) hearings.
The association also has continued to circulate a petition on behalf of all those who may be impacted by a temporary stoppage of work, or cancellation of the project.
"It's not only those that are either working on or in line to build these projects," said Bruce. "The other concern is the message it sends to the world and investors who want to do business in B.C. We need to be concerned about how they view that."
The BCUC is set to complete the inquiry next month. The NDP will then make a decision on what to do with the project.
Preliminary information from the BCUC and BC Hydro itself hasn't been positive.
In a recent letter to the BCUC, BC Hydro president Chris O'Riley explained due to geotechnical and construction challenges it will not be able to start the project's river diversion in 2019. However, he remains confident in the project's merit overall. According to BC Hydro, this will likely set the project back a year and add more than $600 million in costs.
Other sources say the costs could be much higher.
According to Deloitte, the auditing firm retained by the BCUC as part of its review of the project, missing the diversion will cause a one year delay and could raise the costs from $8.8 billion to between $9.1 billion and $10 billion.