VANCOUVER — A hydroelectric venture in central Labrador should serve as a cautionary tale for British Columbia and its own ambitions to build a multibillion-dollar dam in the province’s northeast, the former head of Newfoundland and Labrador’s public utilities regulator says.David Vardy, a former economics professor and retired civil servant in that province, published a letter Tuesday addressed to the B.C. Utilities Commission containing more than a dozen recommendations based on lessons learned from Muskrat Falls.The utilities regulator was tasked earlier this month by B.C.’s new NDP government to review the economic viability of Site C, an $8.8-billion energy project under construction on the Peace River.“B.C. has the luxury of being able to stop this now without going any further,” Vardy said in an interview. “In terms of the take-away from Muskrat Falls: It’s not too late to stop it.”Vardy’s letter outlined the similarities between the two provinces’ megaprojects: Both are backed by powerful Crown corporations, both were exempt from the usual regulatory oversight process, at least initially, and both have experienced ballooning costs over time.The price tag for Muskrat Falls has more than doubled from original estimates, swelling to $12.7 billion in the province of only about 525,000 people. Vardy said the project’s cost of about $24,000 per person would double the province’s per capita net debt and pose a major threat to its solvency.Vardy encouraged British Columbia’s Utilities Commission to ensure Site C is built according to current energy needs and is made as adaptable as possible, warning that the rapid pace of technological advances could make the project obsolete before long.He also emphasized the importance of independent public oversight and a rigorous public review process, lauding the analysis being conducted by the utilities commission.The review began Aug. 9, with interim findings due six weeks later and a final report expected by Nov. 1.The commission’s review process in B.C. was once standard before the previous Liberal government’s clean-energy laws permitted some projects, including Site C, to circumvent the regulatory process.An email from B.C.’s Energy Ministry said the government would consider the results of the report, as well as environmental and First Nations considerations, before making a timely decision on the future of Site C.Energy Minister Michelle Mungall declined further comment “out of respect for the independence of the review process.”BC Hydro could not immediately be reached for comment.The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association told the utilities commission in a statement released Tuesday that BC Hydro must complete Site C.“The Site C dam has been the subject of a robust, nearly three year, independent review and its business case is solid,” president Chris Gardner said. “We cannot produce this kind of high quality, reasonably priced, clean energy anywhere.”There are about 2,400 people working on Site C.Gardner described Site C as an “all-important backbone” that would allow B.C. to transition to other renewable energy sources, adding that ratepayers cannot be expected to spend billions of dollars and get nothing in return.But Vardy dismissed the logic of chasing money already spent, which he called sunk costs.“The key consideration must be future costs,” he said.“We may find it very difficult to walk away from an investment … but what really counts is how much money you’re going to have to spend before you get something that’s worth anything.”— Follow @gwomand on Twitter
Knowing firsthand the impact physical education can have, Adrian Grew was taken aback when he learned there are children around the world going without that critical aspect of learning.The fourth-year Concurrent Education student has since committed himself to making a difference, aiming to introduce physical education in the Siaya district of Kenya, where his family has ties. “I’ve always wanted to make a positive change in some way when I finish at Brock,” said Grew, who has been working throughout the term to fundraise for his cause.“At the Ramula Mixed Secondary School, there is no formal physical education program and all of the sports are male-oriented. I want to create opportunities for these boys and girls to participate in and develop a love for sport.”Fourth-year Concurrent Education student Adrian Grew is selling beaded jewelry to support creation of a sports program for children at a school in Kenya.As a lifelong basketball fan, Grew, a Kingston, Ont., native, learned the positive benefit of sport and became determined to share that impact with others.In the spring of 2018, Grew will travel to the Kenyan secondary school, where he will spend three weeks volunteering and introducing a sports program to students.To raise funds to buy sports equipment for the overseas initiative, he has been selling beaded jewelry on campus throughout the term. “People have likely seen me in the hallway every Thursday afternoon outside of the Computer Commons, selling beaded necklaces and bracelets made by Ugandan women,” Grew said.The beads, brought back from Africa by Grew’s mother, are created by women in the community as a means to support their families.Each colourful bead is a long triangular piece of paper, rolled up and sealed with a resin to maintain its shape.“By making a purchase, you are supporting two communities — the Ugandan women who make the jewelry and the children at the Ramula school who will benefit from the equipment purchased for them,” Grew said.His travel to Africa and accommodations are being paid for from his personal savings, earned by refereeing basketball for intramural teams and working at a summer sports camp for the City of Kingston.“I have been planning on volunteering in this way for some time now. All of the proceeds go into a GoFundMe account dedicated to giving back to this community,” he said.Grew first visited Kenya more than 10 years ago, while travelling with his family. He credits his mother, an elementary school teacher and volunteer of CanAssist, a Canadian charity dedicated to infrastructure development in East Africa, for inspiring him to help others.Even though Grew is not scheduled to depart for a year, the Kenyan community has already expressed enthusiasm in anticipation of his arrival. “On behalf of Ramula Secondary School, Nyanza province Kenya and the St. Catherine early childhood community school, we are looking forward to Adrian Grew’s visit to this community,” said CanAssistAfrican Relief Trust Kenyan field representative Daniel Oduor Otieno.“It is our hope that students will be able to learn and work with him in the areas of his interest, which are basketball, physical education and mathematics.”It’s not just the students Grew hopes will share in his understanding of the importance of physical education and the opportunities and lessons learned through sport.“As a future educator, I believe it’s important to develop programming that is sustainable,” he said. “To do this, I need to get the teachers and community leaders engaged to ensure the program we develop continues after I leave.”Beaded necklaces and bracelets can be purchased April 6 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. outside of the Computer Commons.Donations can be made online on Grew’s GoFundMe page.