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Will Dix Get Gassed by Clark?

Premier is betting the election on LNG. Where's the opposition?

By Rafe Mair 18 Feb 2013 |

Rafe Mair writes a column for The Tyee every second Monday. Read his previous columns here. He is also a founding contributor to The Common Sense Canadian.

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BC Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon with Premier Christy Clark on Throne Speech day, Feb. 12.

Premier Christy Clark has just scored points in her Throne Speech by basing her government's future and our fiscal future on liquified natural gas (LNG) exports. The consequences don't matter to Premier Clark for she's only concerned about the election.

But now NDP leader Adrian Dix and energy critic John Horgan have been forced into a corner. For how can you be critical when all along you've been supporting LNG? You'll be painted as "me tooters."

The Liberal policy is nonsense. It presupposes that the huge China and other Asian markets will be taking all the LNG they can get their hands on, making B.C. an important player.

Too bad that Adrian Dix and his party have been ignoring Lord Randolph Churchill's dictum: "It's the duty of the opposition to oppose."

Instead, the NDP has chickened out. Their new rule is, "We can't be opposed to everything, and when we do disagree we will say so in cozy, polite and respectful language." The theory, I suppose, is that acting quietly and in a respectful tone will show, for the first time in the world's history, the meek inheriting the prize.

Had the NDP been doing their duty as Lord Churchill said, Dix would be in a position to dump all over the government and show Premier Photo-Op's policy to be a deliberate deception.

Plenty to have opposed

In scanning the LNG issues, I find plenty.

Let's first look at pollution.

You will remember when natural gas was such a bad polluter that it was declared off limits. Heaven help us if BC Hydro uses gas to fuel its generators a couple of times a year when BC Hydro's reservoirs are low, but somehow this dirty pollutant becomes a friendly pal when it suits the government.

Along came "fracking," and by edict from the premier natural gas is no longer a nasty pollutant. It is lovely stuff if used to make LNG. 

How about economics?

The reality is that the sudden rise of fracking has made natural gas a glut on markets around the world. The more countries bring on fracking operations, the less gas will cost. The big users like China will have their own fracking operations or will import it from Russia, which has the biggest reserves in the world and can supply China much more cheaply than we can. Normally I would say that this is an industry problem, not one for us to worry about. But the industry is promising 75,000 jobs and a gazillion dollars in our treasury. How the market will behave when natural gas is dirt cheap is very much a public issue.

Australia will be able to deliver LNG to Asia much cheaper than we can. We are building pie to go into the sky, and it's on this flimsy program the Liberals will seek re-election. It's an issue the NDP, by their naiveté, made hard to oppose.  

Let's now look at pipelines. The NDP is four-square against the Northern Gateway project transporting bitumen, yet isn't sure about the Kinder Morgan line to the south even though it too will carry bitumen.

Surely these issues must be dealt with now, not after it's all a done deal.

We can't hear you

Mr. Dix, I must tell you again. Get your ass in gear. It might prove a bit painful as it comes off the fence, but you're allowing the Liberals to use their phoney LNG plan to obscure the facts of a terrible government.

Here are some thoughts for the campaign. It is not evil (or even taking some low road) to:

1. Remind us how Gordon Campbell disgraced the province when he went to jail over drinking and driving and paid no political price; 

2. Remind us what the Campbell/Clark government said, when in opposition, about the need for NDP ministers who had done wrong to step down;

3. Remind us that the Campbell/Clark government, upon taking office, gave tax breaks to their friends amounting to billions of dollars;

4. Remind us about the tragic consequences of supporting fish farms unto repaying their fines and giving them carte blanche to help themselves to our waters and destroy our salmon;

5. Remind us how the Campbell/Clark government has driven BC Hydro to the point where if it were in the private sector it would be bankrupt;

6. Remind us how the Campbell/Clark government's rivers policy has destroyed 75 of our rivers, most critical fish bearing waters;

7. Point out that the rivers policy entitles outside corporations at the expense of our sacred environment -- a policy the Liberals will continue to expand -- and remind them that the finance minister of the day went on air where every single point he made was untrue and that he had to know it;

8. Remind us that in 2009 the Campbell/Clark government ran on a budget that showed a small deficit which in fact was understated by over a BILLION dollars, which no doubt contributed significantly to their close victory;

9. Remind us about the Campbell/Clark government's giveaway to political pals, BC Rail, a deal that stank of insider deals, bribes and deceit;

10. Tell us how the government has openly helped the road builders destroy farm lands and wildlife sanctuaries to build a road where a railway would have done a much better job;

11. Recall for us the shabby state of children in need and lack of concern;

12. Mention the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) and how the minister of finance had a report from his staff condemning the HST, yet in the '09 election then minister of finance Colin Hansen and premier Campbell told the public that an HST "wasn't even on the radar screen."

Changing picture 

The brutal fact, Mr. Dix, is the game has suddenly changed and you and your party are in trouble. The Conservative Party is a bad joke and the Green Party is set to take more votes from the NDP than you're bargaining.

I suggest that you:

1. Tell the public that there is a freeze on all applications for fish farms and that you will require all present farms to go on land.

2. Put the Site C dam on hold until a newly constituted Public Utilities Commission can review the entire project.

3. Put fracking on hold on the same terms as Site C.

4. Stop all river rapes, and declare that no more will be considered.

5. Review all river projects now in existence and decide whether or not they are in the best interest of the province. (Recall that the Public Utilities Commission, before it was defanged by Campbell, held that the so-called run-of-rivers policy was not in the public interest.)

6. Put BC Hydro under scrutiny by the newly empowered Public Utilities Commission with the object being to restore BC Hydro as a publicly owned corporation that, as in days past, pays a large dividend to the public.

Yes, Mr. Dix, you'll have to come clean and deal with the costs. But when you remind the public that before the crooked Liberals came in, BC Hydro was a flourishing public utility whereas now every man, woman and child carries an $18,000 debt, they will understand that the nettle must be grasped. 

I believe that if you lay out before the public just what a mess this gang has left us, and come up with a plan, they will accept you.

If you're not going to bring real reforms, what's the point in voting for you?

In the case of fracking and Premier Clark's LNG gambit, I wish you would see a lesson. There is truth in the argument that if you don't oppose in the first instant, you are in a pickle when the government expands policy, because now you look weak and insincere.

Please act on that lesson. Election day is less than four months away. If you won't get in the ring and fight like hell, you will be a loser, and so will be the long misgoverned public.  [Tyee]

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