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BC Liberals planned 'frontal attack' to split green vote in 2007: Marining

The B.C. Liberals have been laying plans to split the May 12 environmental vote for more than a year, according to environmental activist Rod Marining.

Marining, a co-founder of Greenpeace International and vice-chair of the British Columbia Environmental Network, said a B.C. Liberal cabinet minister told him in November 2007 that the party was planning a five-issue campaign aimed at luring away about 8 per cent of the NDP and Green Party vote.

Marining told The Tyee that he met Pat Bell, then minister of agriculture and lands, at an event to celebrate the creation of protected habitat for the mountain caribou. Minister Bell was the featured speaker at the Vancouver event.

Both men had inadvertently arrived at the Richards Street restaurant an hour early. Marining said they sat down “over a couple of scotches,” and Bell brought up several environmental issues and the votes to be gained from them.

Marining recalled that Bell told him, “There are green votes in all parties,” and that Bell broke down the percentages by parties. Marining recalled Bell figuring that 8 per cent of the Green and New Democrat vote could be drawn to the Liberals.

Marining said Bell predicted five issues would attract those voters: the Great Bear Rainforest, protection of the mountain caribou, electric cars, the carbon tax, and renewable energy.

“This was clearly going to be the frontal attack,” Marining told The Tyee, “and it would take the Greens and NDP by surprise.”

Minister Bell confirmed Marining's recollection of the event and the conversation, though he said he did not recall the specifics about vote percentages.

When contacted by The Tyee on Wednesday, Bell recalled the issues he discussed with Marining slightly differently: “The mountain caribou, the Great Bear Rainforest, a light footprint for log harvesting, and a low-carbon agenda.”

If they talked about cars, he said, it was more likely hybrids rather than electric cars.

“I’m not really a politician. I don’t talk about politics on a day-to-day basis," Bell told The Tyee.

“We too are concerned about the environment,” he said. “We have an opportunity to capture the environmentalist vote.”

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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