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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