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Christy Clark's Pipeline Poker Bluff

With few chips left to support her strong stand at premiers' meeting, it's all luck now.

By Bill Tieleman 31 Jul 2012 |

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. E-mail him at or visit his blog.

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Clark: Betting high. Photo via Shutterstock.

"In a field populated by hypocrites and phonies, the erstwhile B.C. premier takes duplicity -- and recklessness -- to an entirely new level." -- Warren Kinsella, Toronto Sun columnist

Since B.C. Premier Christy Clark knocked on Alberta Premier Alison Redford's door last week and yelled "trick or treat" over the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, things have only gotten far worse.

Threatening to egg the Alberta legislature unless the oil-rich province coughed up billions didn't go over well there, nor did Clark sneaking in the back way to meet Redford while trying -- unsuccessfully -- to avoid the media.

That embarrassing episode and Clark's unwillingness to take a position on Enbridge led Calgary columnist David Marsden to write: "Be thankful Christy Clark isn't Alberta’s premier."

But it was only when the B.C. premier issued ultimatums at the national premiers' conference that things got really out of hand.

Benched by media

Kinsella -- like Clark, a lifelong federal Liberal who actually worked for the BC Liberals in the 1996 campaign when Clark was first elected MLA -- called her a "nation wrecker."

Conservative Sun News columnist John Robson wrote that Clark's "desperate attack" on Enbridge was "morally outrageous, economically ignorant and legally preposterous."

And Mark Milke of the right-wing Fraser Institute accused Clark of "playing a risky and ill advised game of economic chicken" while Carrier Sekani Tribal Council chief Terry Teegee said it was unacceptable the premier was acting like a contestant on TV game show The Price is Right "while putting our lands, our waters and our futures at risk to devastating oil spills."


The game comparisons continued with Sun News columnist Rick Bell saying the unpopular Clark was trying the political equivalent of a football "Hail Mary pass, while trying real hard not to blink" in suggesting the pipeline won't go ahead unless Alberta prepares a multi-billion dollar cheque for B.C.


But the more accurate game analogy than any of these is poker.

Clark has a lousy hand and is already deeply in the hole, down to her last chips.

Clark doesn't have the political support to back a strong stand, didn't even register the province to present evidence at National Energy Board hearings, and can't credibly oppose Enbridge on environmental grounds after negotiating in public for hush money.

Walking out of the premiers' conference while refusing to consider supporting a national energy strategy gave Clark a big media hit but alienated the other premiers.

So her only chance is to bluff well and pray the other players fold without discovering that Clark only holds a pair of twos.

It's a cold, calculated high-risk gamble that has left many card players hitchhiking their way out of Las Vegas, broke and looking for honest work.

Is Christy Clark any luckier?  [Tyee]

Read more: Energy, Politics, Environment

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