I was among millions of British Columbians initially puzzled by the mysterious but apparent flip-flop on the electability of the B.C. Liberals by the people of B.C. who returned a Liberal government majority last week.
Frankly, I do buy the most obvious explanation by pundits and media outlets, that leader Adrian Dix of the NDP was the one who stepped into a deep hole of his own making when he stated he would put the boots to expansion of the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline, ban further large oil tanker operation in Vancouver Harbour and indeed all B.C. waters and that he could not support the cross-province Enbridge Northern Gateway oil pipeline to Kitimat.
No one in his riding doubted his sincerity on Northern Gateway, out sight of the Lower Mainland and Dix’s own seat in Vancouver-Kingsway, but not out of mind of the people living in that part of the country many of whom feel they know what’s best for all other areas of the province, while, knowingly-or-not, enjoying the resource’s economic benefits at home.
However, I also suspect any possible interruption of Vancouver-area jobs or harbour traffic, when you get right down to it, is a matter of much concern for the many cash-strapped taxpayers in “big city” Lower Mainland areas. I suspect a lot of people feel it’s hardly an “appropriate” matter of unimportance for a philosophy-driven socialist party if it is really seeking to haul the province out of an economic hole.
So, why did Dix so blithely step into such a sinkhole after waffling his way through so many other pitfalls with his very vague platform? Simple, I think; he was worried about the potential of a “green” influence draining votes from the NDP.
Turns out he was right to worry as the Greens seized their first seat in B.C., won by University of Victoria professor Andrew Weaver, at the expense of ex-Liberal cabinet minister Ida Chong, dropping NDP candidate Jessica Van Der Veen into a third place finish in Vancouver Island’s Oak Bay-Gordon Head riding.
This could be significant as the Green Party (with a single member, Elizabeth May elected as an MP in Ottawa and now with a single MLA in Victoria) will likely continue to eat votes from the perceived environment-supporting NDP candidates, in future elections.
Overall the shock election result simply said that a large proportion of the B.C. electorate did not have faith in the ability of the NDP to reverse the economic woes of the province in conjunction with their stated opposition to so many potentially high-dollar resources investments.
The only progressive free-market option thus got the “hold your nose” votes of enough like-minded people to produce a surprising majority. It’s unlikely that the Liberals will see the result as an overt endorsement of their past eight years of zig-zag rule as much as they will see a last-minute rejection of potential NDP stagnation in the province.
Hopefully, some of the steam-roller tactics of Gordon Campbell-Christy Clark governments in the early part of this new century, will give way to some more selective and better-thought-out economic decisions in the coming four years.
Hopefully, to me, Lower Mainlanders and Vancouver Islanders will have to acknowledge they can’t have everything their way. You can’t run all the gas-guzzling Hummers and BMWs, (with standby Sky-train and ferry services) and heat your flashy downtown condos and over-priced properties without the resource energy that produces the revenue for essential government services.
You can’t continue to enjoy the elite standards of living that permits you to sit around in the sun, or worse, under the portable gas heaters in Starbucks outdoor cafes – while debating and deciding the future fate of the northern half of the province. In particular you can’t forever denounce all of the pipeline developments that may be vital to the country’s future.
Especially if your rationale is that it’s all on behalf of our pristine environment, or the Great Bear Rain Forest you’ve only seen on TV, or to provide support to the aboriginal population that, I would say, has demonstrated it has a loud enough voice of its own.
It’s the type of double-hulled hypocrisy that contributed to tripping up Adrian Dix and the NDP in this election.
Some form of gas or oil export from the west coast is a clear necessity for Western Canada’s energy resource industries. Yes, it will have to be done safely, correctly and sustainably. Yes, easy to say.
But, pipelines to the West Coast ares in the national interest, as well as in the interests of B.C.’s economy. A Kitimat-Terrace area refinery couldn’t hurt! It would certainly be in our best local interests.
So, let us all hope the surprise election result will permit us all to take a breath, take a fresh look at what’s ahead for B.C. and Alberta as important national energy producers.
Personally, I would see a lot of the impetus for moving forward coming from Alberta, which is slowing coming around to the fact that more bitumen must be upgraded in Alberta, an investment challenge for the oil sands current international owners. Let’s see them put their money where their mouths are.