There’s far more required in governing a province than keeping its economy healthy and balancing the books. If, in the process, a premier chooses to ignore voters’ basic needs, that choice eventually bites where it hurts most – in the ballot box.
That is precisely what happened to British Columbia’s Christy Clark in May. In her more than six years as premier, Clark had consistently placed B.C. among Canada’s top performers, economically, while posting five consecutive balanced budgets.
Consequently, on election day this past May, Clark and her B.C. Liberals thought their strong economic performance would lead to yet another solid victory over the rival New Democratic Party (NDP).
Unfortunately for Clark, coming close only counts in horseshoes. She finished within one seat of a majority, capturing 43 of 87 seats. Then, as expected, she lost a confidence vote on the throne speech to a coalition of the NDP (41 seats) and the Green Party (three seats).
Simply put, many B.C. voters were fed up with the Clark government’s penny-pinching ways and its airs regarding voter needs.
Welfare rates, for example, had not risen during the Clark years; public transit fares increased while service declined; B.C. Ferry Services Inc.’s fares jumped; schools deteriorated; child-care costs and housing prices rose out of sight; and waiting lists for surgeries grew.
Instead, economic growth was the focus of the Clark government and its mantra was the megaproject. Her government approved the $8.9-billion Site C hydroelectric project, now underway in northeastern B.C., while sidestepping the regulatory process. Clark’s government also joined Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in approving Kinder Morgan Inc.’s $7.4-million pipeline expansion project. That pipeline is expected to carry high volumes of crude oil from Edmonton to the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby. From there, the oil will be shipped to Asian markets via a seven-fold increase in annual oil tanker traffic through the Port of Vancouver.
Clark also promised to establish a multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas (LNG) export industry on B.C.’s west coast, and a new $3-billion, 10-lane bridge over the Fraser River, replacing an obsolete tunnel, to link Delta and Richmond.
Now, the anti-Clark environmentalists are happily applauding NDP Premier John Horgan because his new government is putting the future of many B.C. megaprojects in doubt. As promised during the election, the NDP has sent Site C to the B.C. Utilities Commission for review, with options to cancel, postpone or proceed with the project.
As for LNG, only days after Horgan’s government was sworn in, proponents of the $36-billion, Pacific northwest LNG project unexpectedly cancelled that undertaking. They said it wasn’t because of the new NDP government, but tougher environmental rules for LNG projects was part of the NDP’s campaign platform. The NDP doesn’t like the proposed 10-lane bridge from Delta to Richmond, either.
Stopping Kinder Morgan’s pipeline (another NDP campaign promise) will be tough, though, as the pipeline falls under federal jurisdiction. However, the NDP government certainly can drag its feet on giving approvals, permits, etc. for the project.
Now that Clark has resigned as both Liberal Party leader and member of the legislative assembly, Horgan has more time to undo B.C.’s proposed megaprojects because he has up to six months before calling a byelection in Clark’s riding. In B.C., “politricks,” is seldom dull.
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