General · 16th May 2013
Warren Bell Vancouver Observer
Thanks to the Vancouver Observer and Warren Bell for this article. We now have a return to the status quo ante in BC – a majority Liberal government that cannot be stopped, slowed down, or modified in its pursuit of a public policy agenda that is a “carbon” copy (and I use the phrase advisedly) of the Stephen Harper approach to governance.
The difference between the two parties, in terms of popular vote, was small – less than 5% (44.4% for the Liberals, 39.49% for the NDP). But with our deeply flawed, irrational and outmoded electoral system, where balance and diversity is sacrificed to one-size-fits-all, that small margin meant a huge difference in seats won. It meant 50 seats for the Liberals, and 33 for the NDP (59% vs 39%).
In addition, the turnout for the election was poor. Only 52% of eligible voters in BC actually went to the polls and voted this time round.
In a fascinating turn of events, the youth of BC, for the first time in a very long time, voted differently from their parents, and voted for a change in government – not necessarily because they preferred the NDP, but because they preferred to not be faced with the same government again.
Things started to change one week after the writ was dropped on April 16th, and the election campaign officially began. As this Wikipedia graph shows (below), the Liberal campaign had clearly been poised at the starting gate, ready to pounce aggressively on the NDP front-runners, who had been touted to win for months and months.
Aided by large financial backing from a group of rich Alberta businesspeople, heavily invested in development of the Oil (Tar) Sands and natural gas “fracking” and other resource extraction, as well as the support of Stephen Harper’s Ottawa team, the PR process swung into action, raising the old fears of “socialism” destroying jobs, and resolutely refusing to acknowledge the long-term implications of global climate change.
And it “worked” – meaning, in partisan political terms, that the Liberals won this remarkably irrelevant election
A highly authoritative study on natural gas extraction – the kind of scientific research Stephen Harper won’t allow anymore in Canada – was published in January in the prestigious scientific journal Nature. It showed that the sole basis of the Liberal policy for jobs and prosperity, coupled with a soupcon of environmental protection, is deeply flawed.
Christy Clark is resting the entire economic future of BC on natural gas extraction in north-eastern BC. She campaigned aggressively on this one single point, and knocked the opposition for being hesitant about this industry.
This study showed that opponents of this policy were right.
The “clean” image of natural gas is utterly false.
Leakage of climate-changing methane gas from the extraction process is now known to be radically higher – 4% to 9% or even more – than previous industry estimates of 0.5%.
Natural gas will be just about the same as the dirtiest of fossil fuels – coal.
To quote from a review of the Nature study: “Setting aside methane leaks for a moment, fracking, processing and pumping natural gas over long distances consumes large amounts of energy. LNG facilities are also highly energy intensive. One LNG facility would emit 2 Mt of CO2e from burning natural gas to power the operation….For all these reasons LNG exports would not contribute to lower global carbon emissions even if they replaced coal as an energy source”
Christy Clark’s basis for economic recovery is about as short-term and meaningless as giving a thimble full of Koolaid to a parched wanderer in the desert.
No wonder BC’s youth, who will have to live with the consequences of decision-making today, voted to not let this happen. Their future is on the line – and thanks to the current election results, that future don’t look pretty.
But that’s not all.
The relentless support of broad corporate priorities under the Liberal government is also set to continue. Here are some other consequences of the election’s outcome.
The Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline has a vastly improved chance of going through, because behind the scenes, Christy Clark is in lock-step with Stephen Harper and his lieutenants Oliver and Kent; diluted bitumen will be shipped to BC’s coast, and then off to China, where (if it doesn’t spill or run aground) it will be processed and burned (or shipped back and burned here) and accelerate global climate change
The Kinder Morgan proposal to double the pipeline that leads through the province to Vancouver, carrying "tar" (bitumen) from the "Tar [Oil] Sands", will be approved; tanker traffic in Vancouver’s harbour will jump from 6 a month to 30 a month, and inevitable spills will occur along the pipeline route, right down into Port Coquitlam and Port Moody, and tanker accidents will be far more likely.
BC will NOT do its own environmental assessment of either pipeline project; Gordon Campbell gave this right away to Stephen Harper, and Christy Clark won’t ask her political friend to give it back.
Pesticides will continue to be sprayed over lawns, parks, playgrounds and ornamental gardens, and on private vegetable gardens, all over BC – as the pesticide industry (and no-one else) has said is only right and proper; short and long-term ill health and environmental damage from this practice will continue to accumulate
Careful assessment of drugs by UBC’s Therapeutics Initiative – which has saved the citizens of BC millions of dollars and hundreds of lives – and the very existence of the Therapeutics Initiative itself, will continue to be threatened by drug industry collaboration with the provincial government; sales of potentially harmful drugs will continue to rise, supported by the policies and actions of the Liberal party.
Natural gas exploration and fracking will move ahead very fast, despite the scientific evidence cited above that this is a very bad idea in the medium and longer term.
Campaign finance reform – getting rid of corporate and union donations – will not happen, and as a result….
Corporate priorities will continue to dominate the policies of the Liberal government, whose campaign funding consisted mostly of corporate dollars (and that’s just the officially declared funding!)
Coal exports through Vancouver's port and through Tsawwasen will quadruple or more, thanks to the close relationship between the federal Conservatives and provincial Liberals.
Forest exploitation will continue unchecked – remember Bill C-8, that nearly gave away all of BC’s forests to the big forest companies? You can bet something like it will come back to haunt us.
Stephen Harper's government will continue to play a pivotal role in BC government policy, with an ongoing exchange of staff, money and general support between the two operations.
Fish farms will remain in the path of migrating wild salmon, continuing the devastation of the latter; BC’s government will cooperate with Stephen Harper’s cabinet in suppressing information and scientific data about the deadly impact of viruses bred in fish farms.
The "greening" of the economy, so vital to our survival in the 21st century and beyond – tax shifting, renewable energy development, eco-tourism, local food programs, organic farming, support for higher education in green jobs, environmental teaching in schools – will continue to fade from the government radar
Social support programs, already cruelly under-funded, will stay the same or be reduced even further; the disabled, the mentally ill, the abused and marginalized, the single parents will be kept poor and silent, pinned down by inhumane support systems
Government cronyism, in a government that has developed a wide range of "obligations" (as all governments do the longer they remain in power) will continue unabated.
Participatory government, where citizens have real input into government policy, and are actively encouraged to do so, will die on the order paper; backroom decision-making, the standard approach of the Liberals in BC, and the Conservatives in Ottawa, will remain the norm.
Election reform, giving more representation to the diversity of political positions in this province, is a dead duck.
The only option to all these developments is you and me, standing together. Ordinary citizens, sensing that our political leaders are not handling the priorities of the 21st century realistically, can join with our fellow citizens in the Occupy Movement, the Arab Spring, the Quebec students’ action, and most importantly in the wonderfully inspiring IdleNoMore movement, and compel our leaders to make better decisions.
Time to stiffen our sinews and buckle down to work.
Our children, and especially our grandchildren and great-grandchildren and on down the unborn generations, are depending on us.