I rarely agree with what our provincial government spews out. It has proven to be mostly a mix of political agendas, back-room deals and self-serving propaganda.
So when Premier Christy Clark threw down the gauntlet Tuesday and stated unequivocally (at least for a politician) that the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline wouldn’t go ahead without meeting B.C.’s demands, I was naturally skeptical.
Was this just a way to leverage more cash for the provincial coffers and cover up potential shortfalls in other departments?
Will that cash just be redistributed into other venues like paying for new Lower Mainland highways, paying off some CEO of a crown corporation or ensuring that fat political pensions remain intact?
This, unfortunately, is the perception of political leaders in B.C.
After the entire HST fiasco, the B.C. Rail cover-up and many others, there is no doubt skepticism in the sincerity of Clark’s stand.
So here’s where, if Clark’s well-paid advisors are on the ball, the premier will keep pressing for a bigger piece of the pie while at the same time explaining the government’s plan for any extra cash that may come our way.
Of course, what remains to be seen is if Alberta (which also means Harper’s majority government) will agree to share anything.
But in the meantime, Clark can score some much-needed political points at home by outlining what the province would do with any share of the royalties.
Since she’s arguing that B.C. is taking most of the risk and “100 per cent of the marine risk,” it would be a perfect opportunity to come straight out and say much of the royalty money would be used to enhance the environmental protection and response for the worst-case scenario.
How that money can help cut unemployment and poverty in the affected communities and those funds will go where needed.
She needs to avoid some quasi-concerned statement about protecting B.C.’s future and come out with a concrete plan of action. Not a simple one that could be discontinued in a couple of years to funnel the royalty funds in another direction and shore up the government’s bottom line.
Unfortunately, the government’s track record always seems to lead to that conclusion.
That’s why Clark has a golden opportunity right now.
She got the citizens’ attention by standing up to Alberta, and in turn the federal government, by stating the pipeline wouldn’t proceed without B.C.’s approval.
Now she has to walk the talk.
She needs to take a page out of Quebec’s playbook. That province has the knack of leveraging what it wants from the rest of the country. And B.C. would do well do follow the right course and keep the issue in the spotlight. The government needs to be prepared to have some kind of blueprint as to how the money, if any, will be distributed in the province.
If she’s speaking for all of us, then any funds shouldn’t be headed just to Victoria.
If this is truly about protecting B.C.’s environment and coastline, then step up to the plate and explain just what the government plans to do.
Without a plan, Clark’s posturing is just that – posturing. And it makes B.C. simply look greedy rather than concerned (see cartoon above).
I like that our premier has come off the fence and drawn a line in the sand. That’s Harper’s style and it obviously worked considering he’s ruling Canada with a majority government.
But if she wants to avoid falling into the trap that Harper has created through the lack of transparency, Clark needs to explain to British Columbians what she’s fighting for.
Spewing speeches about protecting the environment are fine for the news clips and photo ops but without a concrete direction, some promises for the affected communities and standing by the citizens, not speaking from the walls of Victoria, she’ll go a long way in regaining some of the Liberals’ lost credibility.
Will it change how voters cast their ballots in the next provincial election? That I’m not sure of.
Will she be doing what she is supposed to do as the premier of our province? That’s a definite yes.
Will it work? For the future of Liberals’ rule and Clark’s leadership, nothing can hurt at this point.
Guy Bertrand is the managing editor of the Trail Daily Times