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BC Politics

Mair to Horgan: You Really Blew It on LNG

Your New Dems backed Clark's Libs for all the wrong reasons.

Rafe Mair 8 Dec

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.

Letter to John Horgan, leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition:

Dear John, I hope you don't mind the familiarity but we have met.

I listened in utter disbelief to you not only supporting the Clark government on their LNG tax legislation you admitted "deficient," but declaring: "We're going to stand side by side with you and vote in favour."

John, we have a friend in common -- Richard Hughes of Cowichan. Richard writes a marvellous blog called Cowichan Conversations. He and I have been friends for over 30 years and, best of all, he has been a friend in need.

Richard is a lifelong member of the NDP, has organized labour unions, has run for the NDP, written for them, and has from time to time advised them.

He recently accused you of selling out to the Liberals on the LNG issue, and he is right. In fact your own member Claire Trevena once, too, called the Liberals' LNG tax bill a "sell-out for B.C."

Some weeks ago, John, I planned a column castigating your leadership of the Opposition. I consulted with people I respected and gave it a great deal of thought myself. Upon reflection, I thought that you'd not had enough time to make your mark and that I should postpone judgment until you'd had a session in the legislature. You've now had that session and you were an utter flop.

I must say that the remarks I am about to make apply as well to Mike Farnworth, whom I thought was a better opposition member than he proved to be, which like you, was terrible.

Fleeting issues or what matters?

Many of the issues your party raised in the session were quite properly debated. In political terms, however, they are fleeting issues which will be gone by May 2017 when we have the next provincial election.

The issue that has legs, and plenty of them, is energy.

You may recall that we met some years ago, before you were leader, in Carole James's office, and we discussed energy issues as you were the critic. The question of LNG came up and you indicated that you supported it, not because you were wild about the idea, but because "you can't oppose everything."

Frankly, I was shocked. Of course one can be opposed to things that are wrong!

More importantly, the opposition is supposed to be opposed even where it may in fact agree. This is because its duty is to expose all of the questions that ought to be raised about the government proposal. At the end of the day they might well vote in support, but they will have done their job in the meantime.

Vital questions

John, I ask you to answer the questions you ought to have posed to the government.

What are the environmental concerns of extracting LNG, with the release of methane gas amongst other things?

Many scientists say that when all things are considered, from the extraction of the natural gas to burning it, LNG is almost, or as harmful to the environment as burning oil or coal. What do you say to that?

What is your position on fracking being banned in other jurisdictions, like the U.K., all over the world?

What are the dangers in transporting and storing LNG?

What of the dangers of tankers transporting LNG through our tricky coastline?

Let me pause here and ask you to please deal with this question. Are you saying that you oppose tanker traffic if the cargo is bitumen from pipelines like those proposed by Enbridge or Kinder Morgan, but that you support it if they carry LNG?

You and your caucus must surely ask these questions:

What about the negotiations taken by the government with LNG producers?

Do you really think that Premier Clark and Mr. Coleman are sufficiently skilled at negotiation to deal with these people?

What about the tax you have supported, do you really think it will be collected?

Surely you can't be supportive of bringing an industry to British Columbia without you and the people having a complete grasp of the economic ramifications.

And, what about the recent revelation that Petronas is not able to get started on its promised LNG facility?

Of even more interest, how do your react to an industry spokesperson who has indicated that there will be no starts in Canada until the end of the decade?

This comes about because Petronas tells us what most of us already knew. The extraction of shale gas and the creation of LNG infrastructure is progressing so quickly in the United States that Canadian prospects are diminished almost to zilch.

Super Fossil BC?

How do you deal with the question that we are supposed to be, and most people want to be, weaning ourselves off fossil fuels while you and your party support the creation of more fossil fuels, more use of them domestically, and more use of them overseas?

Do you really say that you "can't be against everything" and to avoid doing that, you will support something bad?

John, you and your party are supposed to be the "government in waiting" yet have betrayed those who want to replace this horrid Campbell/Clark government. Now, subject to what I'll say in a moment, they have nowhere to turn. Aren't you ashamed of yourself?

Same question to Mike Farnworth. Mike, you have always been level headed and courageous. Are you now telling the people that you support your leader and you support LNG?

And to the rest of caucus, are the public to assume that each one of you are sheep and simply have followed Mr. Horgan? Or do you have different private opinions? If you have private thoughts, will you not vouchsafe them unto us?

Perhaps Claire Trevena will let us know if her position has changed?

In the recently held municipal elections, a phenomenon occurred. All over the province environmentalists had an enormous impact. Nowhere was that impact stronger than in Squamish where a little known environmentalist opposing an LNG plant there beat the favoured incumbent mayor handily.

It's not personal

But there was another important factor arising from that election, John, which I have commented upon earlier.

Adriane Carr, the only Green member of a council to that point, led the poll, big time, for Vancouver council. She did so because she demonstrated in her record as a councillor that the Green Party could not only speak out against environmental degradation, but knew how to govern on a day-to-day basis as well.

Hitherto, that's been the knock on the Green Party, whether expressed or simply felt in the belly -- they're lovely people who have great ideas but they can't bloody well govern.

Adriane Carr has demonstrated that to be wrong, and Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver has shown in the legislature a grasp of issues not hitherto thought capable of the Green Party.

This ought to scare the hell out of you, John, for this lends considerable legitimacy to the Green Party's claim to be able to govern after the next election.

I know that this is long ago but this could be 1952 all over again. That was the year that W.A.C. Bennett crossed the floor of the legislature, sat as an independent and without even being their leader, led an astonishing victory by the unheard of Social Credit Party in the '52 election and only then became its leader.

History does not repeat itself exactly, I don't say that. What I do say is that the symptoms are all there. We have a public fed up with the lot of you, Liberal and NDP, just as the public in 1952 was fed up with the Liberals and Conservatives. The distinguishing factor in 1952 was that there was a viable CCF party which damn near won the election. The Green Party are not yet "viable" if you just look at numbers in the legislature, but they may be viable as hell with the voting public.

John Horgan, I frankly cannot see how you can come back from this mess nor how your caucus can redeem itself from following you like lemmings. Indeed, you have no business coming back.

As a betting man, I would say that the worst government in my memory may well have hit a stroke of luck of which a miner can only dream. You have made them the odds on favourite to win in 2017.

It's not personal, John, or Mike, but you've made horses asses of yourselves and there is no way out.  [Tyee]

Read more: Energy, BC Politics, Elections

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