Is a May election that puts in power true defenders of BC’s natural bounty.
To me the dominant issue before all others going into May’s provincial election is the environment. Fiscal fudge-ups can be fixed as can most bad policy. But environmental damage — be it due to fish farms, pipelines, tankers, Site C or loss of agricultural land — is, to all intents and purposes, permanent.
My vote will I think be the same as many. It will go to the candidate who stands for our precious environment. For any politicians wanting to know what to give me — and likely a winning margin of other grateful voters — here are four items on my list:
1. No more ocean-based fish farms
Let’s deal with some of these issues, starting with fish farms. There can be no doubt, after the Cohen report finding that there is no safe way to have fish farms in the pathway of migrating fish, that the provincial government must stop potential farms and get rid of the others.
I accept the fact that corporations lie through their teeth and in this the fish farmers have been helped by the Fraser Institute’s favourite newspaper, the Vancouver Sun, which makes the op-ed page available, it seems, to fish farmers at will.
The province of British Columbia does have critical authority — it is the licensing authority.
Quite apart from all the destruction the industry has done and continues to do, there is one fact that jumps out at you when you think about it.
Fish farming can be done on land without any doubt, the only concern being the costs of production. Those who would farm on land say — and correctly — they can’t compete because fish farms have for free what they must pay substantial sums for — mainly, of course, moving water and dealing with fish excrement, uneaten food and unabsorbed pesticides. For reasons that escape me, all that comes free to the fish farmers, courtesy of the B.C. public and its natural resources.
2. No more ruin-of-river projects
Let’s look for a moment at private power with river giveaways to Independent Power Producers (IPPs). This has been an immense scandal where private companies have destroyed rivers and the ecologies that depend upon them and astonishingly are given a huge subsidy by BC Hydro which is forced to buy IPP power at unbelievably high prices. Moreover, BC Hydro must buy this power even if they don’t need it — which for most of the year they do not.
Premier Clark and her ministers simply won’t deal with this Gordon Campbell benefit to friends, and it remains to be seen what Adrian Dix will do. He will, we’re told, look very carefully at the issue. Memo to Mr. Dix: this isn’t rocket science.
No new dam in the Peace.
Site C is a scandal in itself. At first the government supported this because, in their mistaken thinking, B.C. would need the power. Now the power is needed, we’re told, to “mine” for oil and gas through a process known as “fracking,” a process which has never been properly evaluated on fiscal or environmental grounds.
3. No new bitumen pipelines
Then we have the pipelines/tanker issue over which both the premier and Opposition leader have simply waffled.
Pipelines will leak. If you look at the record, that’s inevitable. Listening to the companies, they want to have it two ways — they won’t spill any bitumen but, alternatively, if they do, it won’t be serious and at any rate they have all the modern methods of clean-up at their disposal.
Don’t eat that, Elmer, them’s horse buns.
There will be spills, most of which will be in all but unreachable areas and, anyway, if the company could get clean-up crews to the site, the Kalamazoo Enbridge disaster demonstrates that a clean-up is all but impossible.
The other pipeline issue is that apart from all other considerations, pipelines themselves interfere in a big way with animals, especially caribou herds. That is no trivial matter.
Tankers are a huge problem. Just recently we had a coal spill in Tsawwassen caused when, through human error, a large ship crashed into the coal terminal. It doesn’t matter how many hulls a tanker has. There will be accidents and consequent spills — and they will be environmentally disastrous. If all goes through as the companies want, there will be some 700 tankers a year out of Kitimat and Vancouver!
Does anyone really believe that there won’t be any spills?
We must remember that even small spills have huge environmental consequences, so it’s not just the odds of the spill we must concern ourselves with but the horrendous results.
And bear in mind that there will always be deliberate spillage from tankers which the companies, with their usual economy with the truth, say will be inconsequential.
There is yet another major concern — agricultural land and sensitive wildlife preserves under attack from Deltaport and consequential road building.
4. A new premier with guts
Now to the May election.
I’ve been speaking in support of the NDP principally because the Liberal government from the start has been corrupt — from their tax giveaway to the better off, their utterly fraudulent budget of 2009, and the BC Rail case and the matters I’ve raised (above).
The 2009 budget was underestimated by $1.2 billion! The excuse the premier offers is that there was a stock market crash and a recession. That raises two points:
1. When the NDP was, as was the world, truly surprised at the so-called Asian flu effectively shutting down our forest industry, the Liberals refused to cut them any slack whatsoever.
2. If the Liberals were surprised at the stock crash/recession they should sack the entire finance ministry, which would have had at their disposal all the evidence needed to inform the government — just as they advised Hugh Curtis, the finance minister in 1979, of a coming recession which allowed the Bill Bennett government to bring in a very unpopular but effective restraint program. (It takes guts to run a province, something sadly missing since Bennett’s time.)
It has seemed to me that painting the worst case for the NDP fiscally, they could hardly do worse than the Liberals who, amongst other things, have tripled the provincial debt. Some businesslike government!
Moreover, I felt that the NDP would reverse the catastrophic environmental policies of the Campbell/Clark administration.
Now I’m not so sure.
The NDP energy critic, John Horgan, supports LNG plants and pipelines and seems quite unconcerned about fracking, which calls for the use of massive amounts of chemically treated water to force trapped oil and gas from layers of shale rock.
Dix will not take a stand on the Kinder Morgan line because they have not yet filed their proposal. This is sheer political cowardice. The issues of the Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal and that of Kinder Morgan are the same — same certainty of leaked bitumen, same inability to clean up, same resulting calamities.
Dix is looking more and more like Campbell did in 1996 when he decided to play it safe because of a large lead in the polls. Glen Clark, who it should be remembered carried the BC Hydro/Pakistan scandal on his shoulders that year, became the only premier in history to win without a plurality as Campbell frittered away his huge lead in the polls.
Adrian Dix has been dealt the same cards Campbell was. And looks as if he intends to play them the same way.
As British prime minister Harold Wilson once observed, “In politics, six weeks is an eternity.”
When voters unwrap the presents they’ve given themselves in May, what will we find?