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NDP decries use of five aircraft for 'press release'

The government's announcement regarding the Site C dam on the Peace River was a tough secret to keep when the tiny airstrip at Hudson's Hope had to be prepared in advance on Monday for the arrival of the Premier and an entourage that filled five aircraft.

The airstrip at Hudson's Hope was the closest landing spot to the announcement held at the W.A.C. Bennett Dam. It was bustling on Monday when a Learjet and the other charter aircraft brought Premier Gordon Campbell, media and a host of supporters to the site, including 120 long-time BC Hydro workers dubbed the "power pioneers."

The New Democratic Party opposition asked whether the trip north fit within travel restrictions for government business.

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"How do you justify sending five planes full of people for a two-page press release?" NDP energy critic John Horgan asked in Question Period. "Why didn't we do it here, like we do everything else? You announced an environmental review, not the second coming of Christ."

Environment Minister Barry Penner wasn't on the trip - he was left behind in Victoria to answer questions about why the government needed to mobilize such a large force to announce that the dam will proceed to an environmental review. He sidestepped the travel question, however, and instead sang the praises of the project itself.

Mr. Horgan also took a swipe at the government for billing the announcement as a green-energy event. "I was going to ask the Minister of Environment about the carbon neutrality of a Learjet for King Lear and four airplanes to take up the boosters," he said. "I won't do that. I don't know how you make that carbon-neutral."

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