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Anger the Polls Don't Yet Catch

Three issues gaining traction as the campaigns unfold.

By Rafe Mair 20 Apr 2009 | TheTyee.ca

Rafe Mair writes a Monday column for The Tyee. Read previous columns by Rafe Mair here. He also acts as a spokesperson for the Save Our Rivers Society.

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Governator and premier: Why heat California's pools?

Picking political winners in British Columbia is a mug's game. Going back to 1972, the NDP won a landslide victory with just 39 per cent of the popular vote. In 1975, it lost to a Socred landslide even though it still had 39 per cent of the vote. In 1996, the NDP won even though more voters picked the Liberals. This is a manifestation of the first-past-the-post system and a damned good reason to support STV in the May 12 referendum. At this writing, the Green party is at 15 per cent in the polls. They won't stay there because the race will get down to the two main parties. If, however, the Greens had supported STV in 2005, STV would have passed and they would be looking at a pretty decent number of seats.

Why shouldn't those people who support the Greens have representation in the legislature? That by their actions, or lack of them, in 2005 they cooked their own goose is true but that doesn't alter the fact that the composition of the legislature should reflect the wishes of the public.

This election's three biggies

As I see it, the election on May 12 boils down to three issues, in no particular order.

1. The perception, indeed reality, of arrogance in the person of Gordon Campbell. On environmental matters, which I'll come to, he has been callous and insulting. The sleaze factor, now coming more and more in focus as part of the hubris of the Campbell government and its leader, increases by the day. The Basi-Virk case and the government stonewalling and the revelations of double dipping by Ken Dobell and, especially, Patrick Kinsella, show a distinct "up yours" attitude.

2. The economy is a huge issue. While axing the gasoline tax may be a good plan for the NDP, the government were waiting for Ms James' announcement and had the government environmental poodle, Dr. Mark Jaccard, with an instant (so it was meant to appear) financial opinion that this move would cause the deficits in the years to come to increase dramatically.

What seems to me interesting is that the Liberals, during the NDP tenure, would not cut them any slack because of the Asian meltdown. "No excuses!" was Campbell's cry. For older folks, it might be reminiscent of Albert Alligator in the wonderfully satiric comic strip Pogo. Albert, after arranging for the swamp's picnic, took credit for the good weather. When Pogo said he couldn't do that, Albert said, "Why not? It happened during my administration, didn't it?" If that principle is to prevail here, Campbell must take blame for the recession.

Of course that doesn't make any sense any more than Albert Alligator does except to point out that Liberals have consistently blamed the NDP for not doing what they were unable to do in the face of an economic crisis. But Campbell's Liberals don't accept the same standards. It's of course silly to blame a provincial government for world wide economic problems but could we not ask the Liberals: "The signs were all there; a huge U.S. deficit, ditto the budget deficit, the huge national debt, and unbelievable scandals in large corporations. Why couldn't the Liberal government with all its high priced help in the Finance Ministry do what then finance minister Hugh Curtis did in 1979, namely, foresee a crisis and take steps to minimize the consequences? Or was Campbell warned but didn't take notice?

The economy is an interesting issue for it plays out differently in different places. The business community, especially in Vancouver, sees the Campbell government as best able to deal with this crisis. Business communities always take this position. In communities outside the Lower Mainland and Victoria, where the forest industry has almost ground to a halt, many blame the Liberals and see the NDP as their saviour.

3. The environment wears several hats. The gas tax axing by the NDP is seen by many city dwellers as bad policy which will cost a lot of money down the road and shirking our duty to clean up the environment. In rural B.C., the gas tax is very unpopular.

What is very interesting are the issues of fish farms and private rivers. Nowhere has Premier Campbell been more callous unto autocratic than on these two issues.

Since 2001, Campbell has not only arrogantly refused to accept the clear scientific opinion that sea lice from fish farms are killing off Pink and Chum migrating smolts, in fact, as soon as another scientific opinion came in, more licenses would be issued or capacity increased. I predict that the Liberals will lose every seat north of the Victoria region as well in the Sunshine Coast regions.

The hitherto "elephant in the house" issue, the desecration of rivers by private companies upon which the Campbell government extends its beneficence, has now been exposed. This is a huge issue in many parts of the province. People are seeing the sweetheart deals with corporate pals, the environmental degradation, the lack of consultation and the ruination of BC Hydro. Every day that passes, this issue rings out stronger especially since the government has not told the truth.

Energy ministers and industry groups have stated that we must have private power because B.C. is short of power. Not only is that untrue, more and more voters realize that none of this private electricity is staying in B.C. That's because it can't. Let me explain.

Private producers can only produce electricity, for the most part, during the spring run-off when the water is high enough to make the generators work. That is the very time that BC Hydro has full reservoirs. Electricity cannot be stored so private power has nowhere to go but out of the province where it will be subject to NAFTA, which means that Americans with a right to use our water can use it for any purpose they choose and their leases will not be bound by statute or private lease terms. NAFTA, being an international treaty, trumps Canadian laws.

Selling BC to Californians?

When voters grasp the fact that all private rivers facts and future dreams do nothing for B.C.'s needs and everything for Campbell's pals and the need of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to keep his constituents' swimming pools heated, they will not be happy. This could be the issue that breaks the Liberals' back.

This issue is even broader than this and I would suggest that readers go to www.saveourrivers.ca for the full story.

This is indeed a watershed election (pun intended) where British Columbians will decide if their vision of B.C. is the same as that of Gordon Campbell.

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