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Clark attacks Dix on Kinder Morgan position at leaders' debate

Premier Christy Clark attacked NDP Leader Adrian Dix today at a radio debate over his Earth Day decision to oppose the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion rather than wait for an environmental review of the controversial project.

Clark, with her BC Liberal Party 14 points behind the NDP in the latest poll, characterized Dix's Kinder Morgan announcement Monday in Kamloops as a flip-flop that shows the NDP leader is making up policy on the fly and can't be trusted.

"This whole position of his, that changes every day, is about as clear as mud," said Clark, about Dix's Kinder Morgan decision.

During the party leaders' radio debate, Dix repeated his new position that the Kinder Morgan proposal would boost the traffic of tankers carrying Alberta oil to unacceptable levels. "We don't want to transform this coast, Metro Vancouver, into an oil tanker port. It changes the purpose of the existing Kinder Morgan pipeline."

Dix's Earth Day announcement won praise from leading environmentalists, including Tzeporah Berman, who had been angry with the NDP in the 2009 election over its then-opposition to the carbon tax. Many observers have said that the Kinder Morgan announcement was designed to blunt the appeal of the Green Party on Vancouver Island and Metro Vancouver.

Dix had previously said that he would not pre-judge the proposed $5.4-billion Kinder Morgan project -- as a matter of principle -- until the pipeline builder's plans had been filed as part of the federal environmental review.

Clark accused Dix during the debate of hiding his true view of Kinder Morgan for some time, noting that he told the Globe and Mail earlier this week that he made up his mind to oppose the project in January. The premier said she would not take a position on Kinder Morgan until its plans are filed with the environmental review -- the approach previously taken by Dix.

"The difference between us is that I still stand on that principle," said Clark.

"He changed his principles on that, jettisoned them when he saw the polls and then told us that he had been concealing that from British Columbians for five months.

"So if he is concealing that, what about the labour code? How is he going to pay for $3 billion in out-of-control spending?"

Dix denied that he had concealed a change in policy, saying that the decision on Kinder Morgan was made on Earth Day when it was announced. "That was clearly when I made the decision."

In the post-debate media scrum, Dix was again sharply questioned over his policy shift on Kinder Morgan. The NDP leader said that he did not make the decision in January, adding that the Globe and Mail newspaper article referenced by Clark did not contain a direct quote from him, acknowledging that he did.

When a reporter asked whether Dix wasn't being "disingenuous," Dix again said: "When I made the decision was when I made the decision to proceed with that as part of our announcement on Earth Day."

He also rejected a suggestion from a reporter that his Kinder Morgan about-face would scare away business investment, saying that turning Metro Vancouver into an oil export port is not "in our economic interests."

Tyee election reporting team member Doug Ward previously wrote for the Vancouver Sun.

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