May 082013
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The party that brought BC the HST after pledging not to, now promises to stop Northern Gateway pipline.

by Bill Tieleman

"We've got tankers going up and down the St. Lawrence for heaven's sake. I don't know why we'd ban them necessarily off the west coast."
– Christy Clark, February 24, 2011.

If you liked how the BC Liberals betrayed voters by imposing the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) after the 2009 provincial election, you'll love what they will probably do with bitumen oil pipelines if they win again in 2013!

Premier Christy Clark's position on the Enbridge Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan pipeline proposals from Alberta is short and anything but clear: "Trust me!"  This from a leader whose party told voters it had "no plans" to bring in the HST — and then did exactly that mere weeks after the election.

In this election — whether you are against or for the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipeline projects — can you trust the BC Liberals?

The BC Liberals said in writing to homebuilder and restaurant owner groups who were worried — and asked about an HST — not to worry. Then after the 2009 election, those businesses' financial throats were slit when the HST was brought in! So in this election, why would voters be suckers once again and reward Christy Clark's party for breaking trust?

Clark herself had a clear choice when she became premier: she could have scrapped the HST and saved British Columbia an enormous amount of time, trouble and money. Instead Clark led the government's expensive pro-HST campaign against the grassroots group Fight HST, which I helped form with ex-Social Credit premier Bill Vander Zalm, that forced Canada's first ever citizens Initiative vote on the tax.

Even after 705,000 people signed the Initiative petition, Clark spent $6 million taxpayer dollars on HST advertising. And Clark removed financial disclosure regulations in the binding referendum, so we will never know how many additional millions the big business coalition spent. Whether you were against or for the HST, it was clearly a political betrayal of trust.

And now in this election — whether you are against or for the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipeline projects — can you trust the BC Liberals?

Why won't Clark commit to being either against the pipelines, like New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix and Green Party Leader Jane Sterk, or in favour, like BC Conservative Leader John Cummins? Let's look at her comments on the record — on both sides of the issue.

Clark said during the BC Liberal leadership campaign that oil tankers travelling our ecologically sensitive coastline were no problem:

"We've got tankers going up and down the St. Lawrence for heaven's sake. I don't know why we'd ban them necessarily off the West Coast. I think that's a step too far, way too soon," Clark said in February 2011. "Let's not foreclose our options here before we even decide whether or not the Enbridge pipeline is going to be built."

But later Clark said she had five conditions that must be met before BC would agree to the Enbridge pipeline, including that the province get "a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits." And that proponents provide: "World-leading marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems for BC's coastline and ocean to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy oil pipelines and shipments…"

Who would interpret whether all the conditions were met on oil pipelines after the election? Christy Clark — the Trust Me Kid!

For anti-pipeline voters this election offers a critical choice.  Only one opposition party can possibly form a government — the New Democrats, not the Green Party. And both the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipeline decisions will be made in the next four years by whoever is elected May 14.

The situation means those considering voting Green have a tough choice. That's especially true in closely fought ridings like Vancouver-Point Grey — where Clark faces NDP candidate David Eby, who nearly defeated her in the 2011 by-election and could do so this time. 

Voting for your beliefs is important but so is considering the consequences for the province if the BC Liberals are narrowly re-elected and have the power to approve both Enbridge and Kinder Morgan. That makes this election environmentally time sensitive.

But whether it's oil pipelines, BC's $11 billion debt increase in just two years, job losses or claims this year's budget is "balanced," it's abundantly clear the BC Liberals made a big mistake when they chose Christy Clark as their new leader.  Voters should not make the same mistake on May 14.

About Bill Tieleman

Bill Tieleman, president of West Star Communications, is one of BC's best known political commentators and communicators. Read political commentary from Bill every Tuesday in 24 hours, Vancouver's free weekday newspaper (also online) and in The Tyee — BC's award-winning online magazine.



© Copyright 2013 Bill Tieleman, All rights Reserved. Written For:

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