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A Quiz for Premier Clark

Two predictions: She can’t pass it. Creating a fail for BC.

Premier Clark used to be Minister of Education so I’m sure she would be delighted to answer a few questions from old Uncle Rafe, the friendly schoolmaster.

Madam Premier, you won a memorable victory last May and no one can deny it, no matter how much they wanted a different result. Usually when a party wins, the other sides are full of piss and vinegar and ready to hold the government to account. You did such a thorough job it effectively destroyed the opposition party and its leader. I don’t mean to suggest that the independent media can take the place of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, but considering that the mainstream media seems gobsmacked by the Liberals and have since 2001, someone has to try to get answers.

Pencils up

Let’s start, Premier, with pipelines and tankers.

Are you familiar with the Enbridge leak into the Kalamazoo River over three years ago?

It hasn’t been cleaned yet! It seems that dilbit (bitumen) sinks and thus is impossible to get rid of.

You have laid down as a pre-condition to permitting pipelines and tankers, “world-leading marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems for B.C.’s coastline.”

It seems to me that you admit that there will be spills. Have you got any models to work with? What would happen to various areas if a certain type of spill takes place? Does this mean every spill must be 100 per cent cleaned up? Does “world class” only mean the best available?

C’mon Premier. You know that any spill will have enormous consequences for everything around it and you are saying, in effect, “We want the best available.” Which is a hell of a long way from being perfect and anything less than perfect destroys the area around the spill and beyond.

Let’s move very quickly to pipelines. I have a question about cleanup.

We know that ruptures and spills will occur. Industry doesn’t deny that.

My question is, even if spills can be cleaned up thoroughly once you get to them — and they cannot — how the devil does the company get crews and equipment into the middle of the Rockies or Coast Range or the Rocky Mountain Trench or the Great Bear Rainforest or any of the formidable British Columbian terrain where spills will occur?

Dammed or damned?

This is only a little quiz so I’ll keep it short. Let’s move to Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).

With respect, you seem to change the timelines on this matter, but what we do know is that by 2017, the next election, you’d better be able to convince people that B.C.’s debt will be paid off, and your Prosperity Fund had better be clearly in view.

Some related questions for you, then, Madam Premier.

Is hydraulic fracturing (fracking), upon which your policy depends, environmentally safe? Where does the water it forces into the earth come from and where, after being laced with harmful chemicals, does it go? Does fracking cause unsafe conditions so that the land above is unstable?

You have said that flooding the Peace to build the Site C dam in B.C.’s northeast will provide low cost power to the fracking companies. Why would we do this? Doesn’t this mean that taxpayers will be the real donors?

Does this add up?

We’re looking five years ahead, Premier, which means that the construction of pipelines and LNG plants must start immediately, and this raises some serious questions.

Where will our market be? China, which has huge resources of shale gas itself, and its neighbour which has the two largest deposits in the world? The United States? They have more than enough with more coming on stream.

Before signing any deals both the location and the price must be known, so Premier, what will LNG sell for in five years time? Isn’t it fair to say that even if companies did enter contracts to buy our LNG, if the price fell out of bed, wouldn’t they simply pull out? Isn’t it also fair to say that natural gas is now so plentiful that it’s a glut on the market? Even places like the U.K. have discovered shale gas.

In sum, Premier, are you saying that we will have all our debts paid by 2018 and $120 billion in a Prosperity Fund even though we don’t know where there will be a market, if at all, nor do we have the faintest idea of what the price will be?

Finally, Premier, will you insist that any contracts to buy this LNG be made public so we can see the fine print re-cancellation?

One of the critical points in all this is that the price of natural gas will be all over the place, especially in Asia, and will destabilize as more and more gas is found. If a company were to say it can predict with accuracy the price and availability of natural gas in, say, 2015, that would be one thing. The fact is that there is no such company.

Companies will thunder abroad that they have contracts for billions of dollars and will soon start building pipelines and LNG plants. Wait until you see the first shovel of dirt moved before you believe a word — and look at the cancellation clauses in their agreements with the B.C. government. It costs these international corporations nothing to make announcements and peanuts to do preliminary assessments of pipeline and plant requirements.

I leave with this. If you can’t answer these questions, it’s into the corner with a dunce hat and a blue star on your report card.

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