Will The NDP Give British Columbians A Voice?

By Roy L Hales

Though Justin Trudeau’s election was largely a reaction to the oil patch politics of the Harper regime, it also marked a renaissance of faith in our nation’s democratic process. Under the Conservatives, this was a one day event that happened every four years. Providing he has the fortitude to endure the criticisms of “radicals,” the Prime Minister was largely free to impose upon the nation. Trudeau promised to change that. Aside from lavish public displays like our procession at COP 21 and the a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, this new government does not appear to be substantially more democratic that its’ predecessor. The question, after this week’s convention, is will the NDP give British Columbians a voice?

Will The NDP Give British Columbians A Voice?

If the NDP (New Democratic Party) adopts the Leap Manifesto, which calls for giving communities more of a voice than corporations in deciding whether to approve energy projects.

This could lead to a kind of “smart government,” that actually reflects the will of the people.

These are things Prime Minister Trudeau promised, but seems  unlikely to fulfill. The perceived violation of Treaty 8 (through the Site C Dam Project) continues. More than 130 scientists, from universities and organizations across North America, condemned the environmental review process for Lelu Island as “misrepresentation,” “lack of information” and “disregard for science that was not funded by the proponent.” Ignoring the protests of environmentalists and local communities, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna rubber stamped the “environmental decision” for Woodfibre LNG. The supposedly “independent” National Energy Board’s hearings into the Proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will most likely end, with a recommendation that this project be approved, before May 20. (The Federal government will make its’ final decision in December.)

Would The NDP Do Better?

We have yet to see if an NDP Government would do better.

Though Rachel Notley’s government is undoubtedly  more environmentally friendly than it predecessors, she still believes Alberta needs a new pipeline so that more oil sands bitumen can reach foreign markets.

In my interview with Notley’s press secretary Cheryl Oates, below, she was unable to give an adequate response to the fact bitumen sinks and would be virtually impossible to clean up if there was an oil spill. Nor did she have an adequate response to the idea that the people of British Columbia’s Lower Mainland do not want Kinder Morgan’s  proposed (seven-fold) pipeline expansion. The basic thrust of her argument seemed to be that Alberta needs a pipeline and the regulators can take care of everything else.

(BTW – Notley made a similar argument at the end of her speech to the NDP convention. Despite this, she is well worth listening to.)

Federal NDP Environment critic Nathan Cullen said, “it got to the point with Kinder Morgan … that you couldn’t cross examine the company … and the so-called science that the decision is based on has never been scrutinized and is usually entirely all paid for by the company.  So that process all fails.”

“If Mr Trudeau is sincere in his desire to have social license be the core of how we make these decisions, then defining it properly and having support for that process and I think something that Canadians would welcome.”

In my opinion, Cullen’s most telling argument is that bitumen sink would sink to the bottom of the ocean and, should a spill occur, is virtually impossible to clean up:

“Once it sinks, the notion of clean-up disappears – because you simple can’t.”

(Listen to my interview with him below)

Vancouver’s aspirations to become the world’s greenest city would be among the victims.

According to city councillor Andrea Reimer, the proposed seven-fold expansion of Kinder Morgan’s pipeline would be a major blow to Vancouver’s brand. How can the world’s greenest city co-exist with one of the world’s largest oil ports?

The Leap Manifesto

In addition to calling for more of a public voice, the Leap Manifesto states:

  • Canada should move from its’ reliance on fossil fuels so that it is entirely weaned from fossil fuels by 2050, “Climate scientists have told us that this is the decade to take decisive action to prevent catastrophic global warming. That means small steps will no longer get us where we need to go.”
  • No new fossil infrastructure projects: “That applies equally to oil and gas pipelines; fracking in New Brunswick, Quebec and British Columbia; increased tanker traffic off our coasts; and to Canadian-owned mining projects the world over.”
  • “end to fossil fuel subsidies. Financial transaction taxes. Increased resource royalties. Higher income taxes on corporations and wealthy people. A progressive carbon tax. Cuts to military spending. All of these are based on a simple “polluter pays” principle and hold enormous promise.”

The NDP has yet to decide if it will adopt the Leap Manifesto.

From A British Columbian Perspective

Speaking from a distinctly British Columbian perspective:

  • I do not want increased tanker traffic off our coast until such time as we are protected against a spill. As I do not see this happening, accepting a pipeline would amount to of taking a great deal of risk for almost no benefit.
  • Climate Change is already upon us and extreme weather events are becoming worse. I do not believe there is any room left for experiments such as seeing how much fossil fuel infrastructure we can add before there are inescapable consequences. We must take action now.
  • I cannot endorse a platform that calls for forcing the most populated area of British Columbia to accept a pipeline. That would seem to violate the fundamental meaning of democracy.

Despite their initial promises, Canada’s new government does not appear to be looking after our interests.

Will the NDP give British Columbians a voice? Or do we need to look elsewhere?

Top Photo Credit:  A tanker in Burrard Inlet  by Richard Greenwood via Flickr (CC By Sa, 2.0 License)

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