Read this revealing critique in th Georgi Straight of Christy Clark's leadership and self-inflicted wounds, a damning indictment coming from her predecessor Gordon Campbell's longtime Chief of Staff Martyn Brown. (May 12, 2013)
Did Christy Clark actually spoil her own ballot? Yes.
No, I’m not just talking about the one in which she happily wrote down two names, before the cameras.
I mean, she’s the author of her own widely expected defeat on Tuesday, and deservedly so.
Although, like so many mistakes Clark has made, her botched advance ballot was also a classic example of her putting politics ahead of the serious task at hand, while also demonstrating how not to vote.
She was so consumed with the photo op and with putting her own name first—sigh—that she almost forgot who she was really voting for.
In writing down Margaret MacDiarmid’s name as an afterthought, she may have cost her Health Minister a vote she can ill afford to lose in a swing riding that could come to down to a single vote.
Note to all voters: if you really want to help your chosen candidate, it’s best to ensure your vote is valid.
Not that the Premier was too worried about her blown ballot. The cameras were there and they loved her, as they have the entire campaign.
In a battle of images vying for all that camera love—pearly-white teeth, irresistible smiles, passion and emotion—Adrian Dix can’t compete with Clark.
Trouble is, that’s not leadership. It’s empty imagery that is about as important to governing as the bombast and tarradiddles that are “Christy’s” defining stock-in-trade.
Campaigns are curious adventures in voter manipulation. They tend to bury substance with style and to reward those who look the best in making their opponents look worse.
It’s funny to think that Dix should have lost some support for looking too serious, too cerebral, and too bookish for a job that demands those attributes. It’s not so funny that anyone would somehow misconstrue him as a “weak” leader, when his performance in contrast to Clark’s over the last two years has demonstrated anything but.
Dix has pursued a thoughtful, transparent, and laudable course that is still short on vision, but that is long on realism, moderation and conciliation. That should serve his government well in building new relationships that can begin to transcend the ideological divide that all parties have historically fostered for partisan advantage.
Meanwhile, Clark has gained a few points in recent opinion polls by simply being a better-animated version of her passionately partisan self. Like Seinfeld’s Bizarro World, through the magic of television, she has flipped her own image on its head.
The person whose weak leadership was only a few weeks ago her campaign’s Achilles’ heel has made her strength of leadership a vote-winning issue. Go figure. She is a born campaigner.
Be that as it may, through a series of successive mistakes made by her own hand, Premier Clark has also spoiled her party’s reelection chances.
Read this column by Gary Mason in The Globe and Mail on new polls showing the NDP poised to ushered in a new political era in Victoria on Tuesday. (May 11, 2013)
With just a few days remaining before British Columbians vote, the New Democrats’ appeal for change appears to be winning the day.
Two polls released on Friday show that while the B.C. Liberals continue to expand their support, the rate of growth has slowed. What it means is that, absent a momentous surge over the weekend, the long-time governing party will run out of time to persuade a majority of voters to give it another shot at power.
A new The Globe and Mail-CTV poll conducted by Angus Reid this week shows the spread between the two main parties is still significant. The pollster has the NDP at 45 per cent – up four from a week ago – and the Liberals at 36, which is up two. Overall, the nine point difference is two points higher than last week. The recent survey has the Greens at nine per cent (down three) and the Conservatives at a weakening six per cent (down four).
The poll is not dissimilar to another one published on Friday, by Ipsos-Reid. It shows the New Democrats holding a six-point advantage over the Liberals, which was down from the 10-point lead the same pollster had the NDP holding a week before.
Any poll is just a snap-shot. Many have been reported in the past week or so, some with the Liberals a lot closer than either Angus Reid or Ipsos has them. Still, one irrefutable fact must buoy New Democrats the most: the support all polls show the party has is in populous Metro Vancouver.
That is where this election will turn, not in the North or the Interior – both areas where the Liberals have made inroads in recent weeks, but where the New Democrats still have an edge. It will be decided in the Lower Mainland where the Angus Reid survey shows the NDP has a six-point advantage over the Liberals. On top of that, the NDP’s support has always been regarded as more efficient than that of its main opponent – meaning it’s more evenly spread throughout the province. This is a distinct benefit as well.
There is little question that the Liberals have run an effective, albeit highly negative campaign. Liberal Leader Christy Clark has done a good job of making the economy her major issue. The economy is ranked as the No. 1 topic on the minds of voters in B.C. Ms. Clark is seen as best able to deal with that area. That would explain some of the shift in momentum her way. The continual erosion of support for the B.C. Conservatives has helped her immensely as well.
Still, it is not enough to overcome the desire for change that seems to exist among the electorate. Maybe the Liberals’ highly negative campaign has begun to wear on people. (Although it must be said the NDP has recently veered off the high road it was on for most of the campaign). Ms. Clark’s disapproval rating in the Angus Reid poll is 61 per cent. That is an awfully big number. One can’t fathom a leader getting elected with that level of antipathy.
The New Democrats waited until this last week to start reminding voters of a litany of Liberal sins amassed over 12 years in office, chief among them the ever-resented harmonized sales tax. But there were other gaffes and scandals that the NDP was only happy to dredge up, perhaps causing more than one person to shake their head at the sheer volume of screw-ups and dreadful decisions for which the Liberals were responsible. It’s a directory of blunders that all governments of a certain age compile.
Read this story from The Calgary Herald on Alberta Premier Alison Redford's comments at a recent energy conference in Calgary, vowing to push forward with proposed pipeline projects from he province, regardless of the outcome of Tuesday's provincial election in neighbouring BC. (May 11, 2013)
Just days before British Columbians go to the polls, Premier Alison Redford said Friday that the vote's outcome won't necessarily spell the end of controversial energy projects aimed at transporting Alberta bitumen to the West Coast for export overseas.
But Redford told an energy conference in Calgary that it is imperative for Canadian crude to gain access to the Asian market in the next three to five years.
"We have oceans to cross and we have enormous distances to cover. The need for interprovincial co-operation on market access is more urgent than ever," she told the business crowd assembled at the Western Energy Summit.
Redford touted her Canadian energy strategy - a plan to unite provinces around promoting energy development - saying that "billions of dollars and millions of jobs and the future of public services that Canadian families use every day are at stake over market access."
She acknowledged, however, the quest for market access faces challenges on the provincial level.
There are no greater obstacles than those in British Columbia, where safety and environmental concerns have fostered staunch opposition to oilsands pipelines.
With election day set for Tuesday, the front-running NDP and the long-governing Liberals have opposed to varying degrees Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and Kinder Morgan's plan to expand its existing Trans Mountain oil line.
"Elections are quite unique things and the dialogue that goes on there is something to watch," Redford told reporters following her speech.
"We're looking forward to seeing the results of the election and at that point we'll continue to work ... with whoever is elected to keep building our opportunities."
Redford did not directly answer a question on whether a B.C. government could stand in the way of the Northern Gateway project if the development receives approval from Ottawa after a National Energy Board review.
Experts on energy and environmental policy say a fight between the provincial and federal governments would enter into uncharted territory.
"Could British Columbia stop development of a pipeline project that has been federally approved? Really good question," said Len Coad, director of the Centre for Natural Resource Policy at the Canada West Foundation.
Coad said a dispute over the issue could become a constitutional battle, in that provinces have responsibility for natural resources, the federal government has jurisdiction for interprovincial pipelines and international trade, and the two levels of government share environmental responsibility.
"Things would get very interesting," agreed Kathryn Harrison, a political scientist at the University of British Columbia.
Read this editorial by Stephen Quinn in The Globe and Mail on the various parties' responses to a questionnaire from Metro Vancouver about Translink and funding for public transit. (May 10, 2013)
While party leaders have been crisscrossing the province in the dying days of the provincial election campaign, trying to hold on to ridings they already have and trying to swing the ridings that might be swung, Metro Vancouver would like their attention – and yours. The pitch is this: Local Government Matters.
With much of the campaign focused on the economy and jobs, pipelines, natural gas extraction, skills training, back-dated memos, doughnut and pizza lunches, red lights, windmills and weather vanes, the organization that represents 24 municipalities and other agencies that make up the metro region (which contains about half of the province’s population) has sent a questionnaire to the four major parties asking for answers to some very specific questions on urban issues.
On public transit, the first question is how the parties will provide local governments and transit authorities with long-term, predictable funding for transit infrastructure. Think light rail through Surrey or a subway line through the Broadway corridor to UBC. Or maybe a few more buses to the most service-starved areas south of the Fraser River.
The Liberals begin by saying that “transit funding is a challenge,” then toss the question back to TransLink, saying the mayors’ council needs to explain the regional priorities, the costs and how new projects will be paid for. They say the provincial government has been working with the mayors’ council to find a solution that taxpayers can agree with.
You may recall that in 2007, the Liberals overhauled the TransLink board because it was, in the words of then-transportation minister Kevin Falcon, “dysfunctional.” The board of elected officials was replaced with a group of “professionals” whose meetings are closed to the public. The mayors’ council has no real power under the new structure, beyond signing off on fare increases and property tax hikes.
On the specific question of TransLink governance, the Liberals agree with a consultant’s report that concluded “there’s more right than wrong with TransLink.”
The NDP says it would reform the TransLink board to once again include elected officials as decision-makers. It also says it would provide a portion of the carbon tax to fund enhanced transit service.
On the carbon tax, the Liberals replied: “There are no funds generated by the carbon tax that could be distributed to Metro Vancouver without raising taxes on individuals and families. Today’s B.C. Liberals are focused on controlling government spending and growing the economy so we can keep taxes as low as possible and get to a debt-free B.C. for our future generations.”
On the issue of tolls and road pricing, the Liberals say any new funding sources will need to be approved in a referendum, to be held at the same time as the next round of municipal elections. They recognize that there are many questions about the referendum.
I’ll say. For instance, what happens if voters in one municipality vote to fund transit and another municipality votes against it?
The NDP, meantime, “will be open to a discussion with a reformed TransLink board.” Good to know.
Read this story from CBC.ca on Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver's bold defense of the Alberta Tar Sands on the international stage. (May 11, 2013)
Canada’s natural resources minister continues to hit back against the many critics of Canada’s oilsands, including a European Union proposal to designate its oil as dirty.
In an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio’s The House, Joe Oliver said Canada’s first priority when it comes to the EU is to change proposed legislation from the 27-country bloc that would see crude oil from the oilsands fail new standards for greenhouse gas emissions.
“It's discriminatory, it's not based on science and it would potentially hurt Canada's ability to access markets for its resources,” Oliver said in the interview.
“We will act if, as a last resort, there are no changes... we will look at all the alternatives and we may possibly take action before the [World Trade Organization].”
Oliver said the EU proposal has loopholes that would give a “free pass” to countries with higher emissions levels than Canada and he’d like to see it reviewed by a third party.
The most toxic and voluminous nuclear waste in the U.S.—208 million liters —sits in decaying underground tanks at the Hanford Site (a nuclear reservation) in southeastern Washington State. It accumulated there from the middle of World War II, when the Manhattan Project invented the first nuclear weapon, to 1987, when the last reactor shut down. The federal government’s current attempt at a permanent solution for safely storing that waste for centuries—the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant here—has hit a major snag in the form of potential chain reactions, hydrogen explosions and leaks from metal corrosion. And the revelation last February that six more of the storage tanks are currently leaking has further ramped up the pressure for resolution.
After decades of research, experimentation and political inertia, the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) started building the “Vit Plant” at Hanford in 2000. It’s intended to sequester the waste in stainless steel–encased glass logs, a process known as vitrification (hence “Vit”), so it cannot escape into the environment, barring natural disasters like earthquakes or catastrophic fires. But progress on the plant slowed to a crawl last August, when numerous interested parties acknowledged that the plant’s design might present serious safety risks. In response, then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu appointed an expert panel to find a way forward. Because 60 of the 177 underground tanks have already leaked and all are at increasing risk to do so, solving the problem is urgent.
Vitrification prep 101: Some tough homework The plant’s construction, currently contracted by the DoE to Bechtel National, Inc., may be the most complicated engineering project underway in the U.S. But back in 2000 the DoE and Bechtel decided to save time and money by starting construction before crucial structures and processes had been designed and properly tested at a scale comparable to full operation. This wasn’t such a good idea, says Dirk Dunning, nuclear material specialist with the Oregon Department of Energy. “The worst possible time to save money is at the beginning. You’re better off to be very nearly complete on design before you begin construction.”
The vitrification project calls for the waste to be analyzed chemically and radiologically before it enters a pretreatment facility to be separated into various constituents such as cesium 137, strontium 90 and metals. After that, each separate waste stream is channeled as either high-level or low-activity waste into designated melters. The glass is created by mixing sand with a few additives like boron; the waste is stirred in, and the whole mess is melted, then decanted into the steel canisters. After the glass logs solidify the waste is trapped and should be isolated from the environment for long enough for most of the radioactivity to decay to safe levels.
The low-level waste canisters will be stored permanently at Hanford. Because the planned Yucca Mountain geologic repository project was halted by the Obama administration, the high-level waste canisters will be kept at Hanford in an as-yet unconstructed building. In January the DoE announced it is beginning work on a new “comprehensive management and disposal system” that will make a permanent geologic repository available by 2048. Yet even if all goes perfectly from now on, it will take until 2062 to vitrify all the waste.
The waste presents significant challenges for Vit Plant project engineers and nuclear chemists. For one thing, the waste varies wildly from tank to tank. The former nuclear weapons facility at Savannah River, Ga.—also part of the Manhattan Project—has been successfully vitrifying weapons waste for years, but only one fuel separation process was used there. At Hanford there were nine production reactors making plutonium and uranium fuel using at least six different radiochemical processes whose chemistry, and thus constituents, were very different. This remains true of the waste as well. There are large differences in composition from tank to tank that necessitate chemically profiling the waste in batches before it enters the Vit Plant, which may also require changes to the glass formula at the other end of the process.
Overall, the tanks hold every element in the periodic table, including half a ton of plutonium, various uranium isotopes and at least 44 other radionuclides—containing a total of about 176 million curies of radioactivity. This is almost twice the radioactivity released at Chernobyl, according to Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters, by Kate Brown, a history professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The waste is also physically hot as well as laced with numerous toxic and corrosive chemicals and heavy metals that threaten the integrity of the pipes and tanks carrying the waste, risking leakage.
The physical form of the waste causes problems, too. It’s very difficult to get a representative sample from any given tank because the waste has settled into layers, starting with a baked-on “hard heal” at the bottom, a layer of salt cake above that, a layer of gooey sludge, then fluid, and finally gases in the headspace between the fluid and the ceiling. Most of the radioactivity is in the solids and sludge whereas most of the volume is in the liquids and the salt cake.
Listen to this half-hour interview by CJSF 90.1 FM's Sylvia Richardson of The Common Sense Canadian's Damien Gillis on the eve of the provincial election. The two compare the Liberals' and NDP's true economic records and their positions on pipelines and tankers, private river power projects, forestry policy, Site C Dam, natural gas fracking and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).
Read this op-ed in the Georgia Straight by Eoin Madden and Torrance Coste of the Wilderness Committee on the real and proposed transformation of Vancouver and the Salish Sea into a "carbon corridor" for coal and oil to new Asian markets. (May 8, 2013)
The Salish Sea, stretching from Metro Vancouver to the southern tip of Vancouver Island, is one of the world’s most hospitable and bountiful bodies of water. The region’s mild climate and abundant resources make it an ideal place to live, and it has been home to thriving Indigenous nations since time immemorial. For the same reasons, Europeans and others settled here in great numbers, and the Salish Sea is now one of the most densely populated areas in western Canada.
A key strength of the region is the inherent ease of transportation that’s possible given its geographic and maritime position. But as we see unprecedented industrial and political prioritization of fossil fuels above all else here in British Columbia, this status as an ideal transport corridor poses a problem for the Salish Sea.
Vancouver, the region’s largest municipality, has taken effort to brand itself as the world’s “greenest city,” and civic leaders here seem to understand that we can no longer afford to be so reckless when it comes to industrial development and its impacts on the environment. At the same time, there are proposals on the table from industry to dramatically increase exports of both coal and diluted bitumen—two of the most carbon-intensive fossil fuels—from the Lower Mainland.
These two objectives are in direct contrast. Vancouver cannot be both a green city and one of the world’s biggest fossil fuel exporters; it just doesn’t work. If efforts to become sustainable don’t apply to exports, we are simply shipping away our impact on the climate, which isn’t a solution at all.
With regard to coal shipments, proposed port expansions at Fraser Surrey Docks—combined with an approved expansion at the Neptune facilities in North Vancouver and recent upgrades at Delta’s Westshore Terminal—would increase the Salish Sea’s export capacity to the equivalent of around 90 million tonnes of carbon emissions per year. That amount of climate-changing pollution is equal to almost six years’ worth of emissions from every vehicle on the road in B.C.
The Salish Sea is also facing a massive increase in tar sands exports. Texas-based corporation Kinder Morgan plans to build a new pipeline alongside its existing Trans Mountain pipeline, which terminates in Burnaby. The proposed increase from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day means a jump from around 80 to over 400 tankers full of dangerous tar sands bitumen per year in the Salish Sea—a further 100 million tonnes of carbon exports.
So what does this mean?
Well, if all current proposals go ahead (coal port expansions and the Kinder Morgan pipeline), the Salish Sea will be transformed into a global carbon corridor. Green initiatives undertaken at the municipal or regional level will essentially be nullified by the fact that they all exist within a climate change superhighway.
We believe many people who live here want to find innovative solutions and more sustainable ways to operate our economies. If we become a carbon corridor, we’ll be clinging to an archaic and destructive system, and contributing to the climate crisis like never before.
Fossil fuel apologists tirelessly push the “if they don’t get oil/coal from us, they’ll get it somewhere else” argument. This thinking is worn out, uncreative, and cowardly. North America holds major fossil fuel reserves—leaving them in the ground is simply better for our future.
Increasing carbon export capacity is about more than just expanding trade opportunities, it’s a major long-term investment in an unsustainable and harmful system, one that will compromise the health of our communities and our global climate.
Instead of subsidizing the fossil fuel sector (currently $1.4 billion per year in federal subsidies), we should be supporting jobs in sustainable sectors, including increased processing in our timber, agriculture, and fishing industries.
Additionally, directing revenue from a smarter, more efficient carbon tax towards green initiatives like the expansion of electrified public transit and freight transport, as well as the construction of energy efficient buildings, will help speed up the transition to a green economy.
Read this story fromThe Vancouver Sun on the ongoing political reverberations of NDP Leader Adrian Dix's unexpected stand against Kinder Morgan's plans to turn Vancouver into a major Tar Sands shipping port. (May 5, 2013)
VANCOUVER - Controversy surrounding increased oil tanker traffic British Columbia's coastal waters is an issue that isn't going away with just over a week to go in the provincial election campaign.
NDP leader Adrian Dix called on Premier Christy Clark to clarify her position on proposed projects that would see more tankers transporting heavy oil to Asia.
Clark's position on the proposed Kinder Morgan and Enbridge pipeline projects has been unclear thus far, Dix said at a Saturday morning rally on Vancouver's Kitsilano Beach.
He said he wants Clark to outline her Liberal party's position before voters go to the polls on May 14.
“The Premier’s position on both these pipelines appears to be ‘trust me.’ But if the price from Ottawa or Alberta is right, she’s prepared to support a massive increase in tankers and the environmental risks that they pose," Dix said.
He added B.C. has an obligation to protect its coastline from projects that would radically transform the northern and southern coasts into major shipping routes for tankers transporting bitumen to markets abroad.
"The stakes in this election could not be higher," Dix said to dozens of NDP supporters, media and a few Green Party candidates.
"Looking out at English Bay, looking out at Stanley Park ... for those of us who grew up in Vancouver, is part of what makes our community special and what brings people from all over the world to this place."
The feeling, Dix said, is similar for First Nations communities that sustain their livelihoods with fishing along the province's northern coastal waters.
"That's their economy too," Dix said to applause. "They understand that projects such as Enbridge Northern Gateway are not in our economic, our cultural, or our environmental interests."
Clark took the day off from the campaign trail on Saturday to attend a little league baseball event in her home riding.
Liberal Environment Minister Terry Lake issued a statement on behalf of the party, saying it's Dix's platform that needs clarification.
The New Democrat changed his stance on the proposed Kinder Morgan project midway through the election campaign, Lake stated in a news release.
“Adrian Dix continues to be all over the map on the issue of heavy oil pipelines in British Columbia – his position is clear as mud,” Lake said.
If it's successful, the Kinder Morgan proposal would see expansion of the company's existing trans-mountain pipeline that delivers oil from Alberta to the Port of Vancouver.
Initially Dix said he would wait for Kinder Morgan to file its application before committing himself for or against the project, but then stated his outright opposition to the project and the increased tanker traffic it would bring.
At Saturday's rally, the NDP leader reiterated his stance that pipeline decisions should be made provincially, rather than at a federal level.
“A B.C. NDP government would protect our coast line and make sure decisions that impact B.C. are made right here and not in Ottawa,” Dix said.
He added his government would cancel an existing Equivalency Agreement with the federal Conservatives within a week of taking office, if the NDP is elected in ten days.