NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

B.C. Journal: Liberals hold telephone town hall to connect supporters to leader Clark

With less than one hundred hours to go until the polls close in British Columbia’s 2013 provincial elections, party leaders Christy Clark and Adrian Dix are keeping busy schedules. As I reported earlier today, Adrian is spending most of his Saturday in the Vancouver suburbs. He was in Coquitlam this morning for the pancake breakfast with Chris Wilson (where I had a chance to meet him), then North Vancouver, Burnaby, and Surrey during the afternoon.

B.C. JournalPremier Christy Clark hasn’t made as many stops, but she is out and about – just not in her own riding.

At 9 AM she paid a visit to Sealand Aviation in Campbell River, then trekked to Abbotsford to promote Darryl Plecas’ candidacy at his campaign office.

A little while later she showed up at Peter Fassbender’s campaign office in fast-growing Surrey to do the same thing.

And this evening, she and the B.C. Liberals are holding a province-wide telephone town hall so that supporters can connect with her and ask (prescreened) questions.

I’ve been listening in to the tele-town hall for around a half hour; it’s just wrapping up. I was kind of hoping to hear Clark articulate some specific policy directions from the platform, but most of what I’ve heard is boilerplate.

Consequently, I haven’t learned much except that Clark and the Liberals really like LNG (liquefied natural gas) and are eager to help big oil companies drill like there’s no tomorrow. Clark even answered a question about education and school funding by pivoting to LNG. (She claimed the development of LNG would allow schools to be amply funded without needing to raise taxes).

The B.C. Liberals’ platform talks about exploiting LNG as if it was a renewable resource that will provide jobs indefinitely. But this isn’t true.

Natural gas does burn more cleanly than coal or oil, but it’s still an exhaustible fossil fuel. Burning it produces emissions and it cannot be extracted without harming the environment – contrary to what the Liberals say in their LNG platform plank:

LNG: Jobs and prosperity

Under our feet lies as much energy as Alberta has in its oil patch. It is in the form of natural gas, a cleaner alternative to oil or coal, in the Northeast corner of British Columbia.

Today, our market for natural gas is in North America, where we only ship it via pipeline.

Tomorrow, our goal is to have a Liquefied Natural Gas industry that will add value to our abundant natural gas resource by shipping it by sea to Asia where it currently sells for over five times the North American price. By realizing this vision we can deliver jobs, opportunity, and a legacy for future generations.

What we are doing about it

LNG facilities are currently proposed by business groups that include some of the world’s biggest energy companies – Shell, Imperial, Chevron, British Gas, Petronas, SK & ES of South Korea, Inpex and the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation, to name some of the major players. It’s no fantasy.

The projects means 39,000 jobs to British Columbia during construction with another 75,000 full time jobs once in operation. We can create $1 trillion in economic activity and create the BC Prosperity Fund with $100 billion over 30 years.

An opportunity this good faces lots of global competition. Premier Christy Clark and Today’s BC Liberals have worked diligently to enable LNG as an economic generator for decades to come.

It’s hard to imagine a rosier pitch for LNG. This plank reads like it was written by lobbyists for big oil companies. (And perhaps they did help write it – who knows).

We agree that LNG facilities are no fantasy. And that should be of great concern to all of us here in the Pacific Northwest. If we let oil companies build all the wells, pipelines, and terminals they want, we’ll be sanctioning massive environmental destruction and permitting the release of billions more tons of carbon dioxide and other climate crisis-causing pollutants into the atmosphere.

Is that really the “legacy” we want to leave for future generations?

Our ancestors mined western North America in the 1800s and early 1900s without regard to the cost or consequences. Environmental science wasn’t a science back then. They didn’t know what we know about the environmental ramifications of blowing up mountains or injecting a brew of toxic chemicals into the ground.

Reading the B.C. Liberals’ platform, you’d think they don’t know, either. What century are they living in? They call themselves “Today’s B.C. Liberals”… apparently because they’re too embarrassed to run on their record. No doubt they’d like British Columbians to forget about the scandals of Gordon Campbell’s government (we in America would say administration). But many are determined not to forget.

Clark and her party have spent more time and money campaigning over the last few years than governing, the NDP’s candidates like to say.

Judging by what I’ve seen and heard, plenty of British Columbians share that view and are ready for a change. The NDP has worked hard to capitalize on this sentiment by making “Change for the Better” its official campaign slogan.

Clark, meanwhile, hasn’t done herself any favors. She’s been so ineffective at governing that it was perhaps fitting she spoiled her own ballot by voting for herself instead of the Liberal running to represent her riding. (In British Columbia, a candidate does not have to live in the riding he or she represents – and Clark doesn’t. She lives just outside the border of Vancouver – Point Grey).

Considering how much money Clark’s government has spent campaigning, I was surprised when I joined the call to hear Clark answering questions from a speakerphone. The prescreened callers (many of whom sounded like undecided voters up until they said “You’ve got my vote”) were coming in more clearly than Clark and her facilitator, who interposed lavish praise of Clark in between Clark’s boilerplate-filled answers and questions from callers.

Most of the callers chosen to participate in the tele-town hall were women; it seems Clark and her party feel that they need to shore up their support among women. Recent polling – including a poll released today by AngusReid Public Opinion – shows that women prefer the NDP to the Liberals.

The BC Liberals have not released a campaign schedule for tomorrow but there’s no chance Christy Clark won’t be out and about. The NDP, for its part, has announced a big afternoon rally at the Vancouver Film Studios in the city’s film district. I’ll be at the rally, which will feature NDP leader Adrian Dix and other NDP candidates.

Look for more coverage of the B.C. elections here on The Advocate tomorrow.

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