The annals of contemporary political history make one thing clear: Elections are invariably won and lost on a single issue - and that issue is most often the economy. To borrow a slogan coined by Bill Clinton's enigmatic campaign strategist, James Carville, "It's the economy, stupid." You can win issues two through ten, but if you screw up the first one, you're toast.
The NDP lost this election for three reasons - all of which relate back to that one central point: 1. Despite compelling evidence in their favour, the NDP failed to destroy the Liberals' economic credibility; 2. Mr. Dix failed to understand the difference between being fair and being nice; 3. Unlike their opponents, the NDP have no sense of storytelling, no simple narrative arc to which they can attach their myriad policy points.
Plainly put, the NDP and leader Adrian Dix lost this election by running a terrible campaign. The out-to-lunch polls and the mainstream media that allowed Clark a free pass on the Liberals' true economic record didn't help matters, but this was Dix's to lose, and lose he did.
There is one invaluable lesson I gleaned years ago from Karl Rove, the mastermind strategist behind George W. Bush's victories. His candidate bears some striking resemblances to Christy Clark, in fact - both highly unpopular at times, neither one the most cerebral of leaders, yet eminently personable, and both able to win elections they probably shouldn't have.
Rove's most important insight was this: You don't attack your opponent's weakness; you attack their greatest strength, because if you take that leg out from under them, they have nothing left to stand on.
For Bush in 2004, that wasn't the economy but rather national security. As his campaign quickly understood, you can't win on national security as a draft dodger running against a decorated war hero. Enter the "Swift Boat Veterans".
Rove also understood - as does Team Obama - the importance of crafting a simple, clear, overarching narrative, to which every press release, photo-op, position paper, soundbite, and campaign ad links back. Christy Clark's campaign did this very well - everything came back to how voters could trust her to run the economy while they couldn't trust "Risky Dix" and the NDP.
This is where Dix fell down. Not only did he choose the wrong issues on which to attack his opponents - he didn't attack, period. The HST, BC Rail, rip-off private power contracts, boondoggle projects like the convention centre, stadium roof and "world's tallest wood building", and, most significantly, the Liberals' abysmal fiscal record. Any and all of these issues - which encompass other things like corruption and incompetence - can be linked back to a master narrative that demonstrates the NDP are really the best choice to lead BC's economy into the future.
But Dix seized on none of these opportunities, preferring instead to run a nice, safe, "no mistakes" campaign. If Ms. Clark and the mainstream media that fawned over her proved anything, it's that it's better to look nice and act tough than look tough and act nice. Why Mr. Dix - not known as a "nice guy" politically prior to this campaign - mistakenly equated being tough on the Liberals' truly appalling record with being a jackass is a mystery to me. Christy Clark, like Danny Williams, Bill Clinton, Pierre Trudeau and many other successful, charismatic leaders before her, demonstrated you can wield a sledge hammer with a smile on your face.
I joined others in pressuring the NDP to take a stronger stand against Kinder Morgan. There are those within the party who will blame this decision for their loss, cursing what they see as succumbing to the unreliable environmental vote. Bollocks. A Justason poll revealed that Dix's Earth Day announcement was positively received by voters. But even if you want to discard that finding based on the wholesale discrediting of the polling profession last night, the decision itself is not the problem. The problem is, again, failing to frame it properly.
Kinder Morgan would bring a few dozen permanent jobs to its updated tanker terminal in Burnaby, and truly paltry revenues to the province. Compare that with our "Super, Natural BC" brand and the $13.4 Billion a year tourism economy and 127,000 jobs it supports - all of which would be put at grave risk by an oil tanker spill. With a proposed 400 tankers a year through Vancouver Harbour, compared with just 20 before Texas energy giant Kinder Morgan bought the existing Trans Mountain line in 2005, we're talking an exponential increase in risk. A simple cost-benefit analysis shows this is a terrible proposition for BC.
Other leaders like Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, and former ICBC CEO Robyn Allan get this and are able to articulate the Kinder Morgan issue effectively in an economic context. Not so with the provincial NDP.
Dix's failure to attack the Liberals' claims of overall economic superiority is even more puzzling. As we've stated in these pages, time and time again - based on information from the Auditor General and the research of independent economist Erik Andersen - the Liberals have raised our real provincial debtfrom $34 Billion to $171 Billion since they came to power. The NDP, by contrast, raised it by $17 Billion over a similar period.
About $100 Billion of that new Liberal debt is hidden in another category called "contractual taxpayer obligations". This is where they hide the estimated (because they're secret, even though you pay for them) $55 Billion in sweetheart, rip-off private power contracts that are causing your power bills to soar; this is where they stash the real costs of public-private partnership contracts for multi-billion dollar bridges, highways and Olympic infrastructure.
This story contains everything the NDP needed to beat the Liberals: corruption, deception, secrecy, gross fiscal mismanagement, controversial IPPs, boondoggle bridges that don't work properly and pile on costs to drivers through tolls...In short, everything they needed to take that one leg out from under their Liberal rivals.
By contrast, they could have offered a bold vision of a stronger, greener economic future for BC - one built on innovation, clean technology, public transit, rebuilding local, value-added manufacturing, supporting our vital film industry and creative sectors, harnessing the true potential of "Super, Natural BC"...Alas, they did some of these things, but in piecemeal fashion - detatched from any central narrative. And they failed to distinguish clearly their own record and vision from those of their opponents.
It's a frustrating feeling sitting on the sidelines, uncomfortable with the NDP but viewing them as the only viable alternative - in our broken, first-past-the-post, parliamentary system - to the worst government in BC history. It's awful feeling so powerless, watching the NDP fuck it up yet again. This isn't their loss alone. This is a travesty for the people and environment of BC. Their incompetence impacts us all.
We need electoral reform. We also need better than the second worst voter turnout in the country - even more pathetic by the standards of most of our fellow western nations. It is a great societal failing that we can't manage to get out more than half our eligible citizenry for half an hour to vote, once every four years. Something needs to change on this front.
While we're at it, we could use an honest mainstream media that digs up the facts and looks out for the public interest - though we can expect to wait about as long for that as the characters in Samuel Beckett's famous play. That's why people like Rafe Mair and I are trying so hard to build an alternate media.
For now, I'd settle for someone taking a fire hose to the backrooms of the NDP and flushing them clean. There are many quality people within the NDP - Adrian Dix included (though not as a candidate for Premier). They've staked out some strong positions that are in line, I would still argue, with the public will on many key environmental and social issues. There are some exceptions, granted - salmon farms, Site C Dam, and a need for more clarity on their position regarding fracking and LNG. My complaints here are less about their policies than about the way they sell them.
There are also some small but heartening positives which progressives can draw from last night. For the NDP, George Heyman and David Eby's victories in Vancouver come to mind - two of the NDP's brightest new prospects, both very strong on environmental and social issues, both worked their asses off running good, tough campaigns and were rewarded for their efforts.
I was also happy to see Independent Vicki Huntington win re-election in Delta South, though sorry to see sitting Independent MLA Bob Simpson from Cariboo North narrowly miss out on another term. Both did a great service to British Columbians as hard-working, competent Independents in the Legislature.
Meanwhile, the Green Party ran a solid campaign and it's encouraging to see them break through with their first provincial MLA in Andrew Weaver. Any NDP'er who dares blame the Green Party for their loss needs to examine both the facts and their own head. The Greens did a smart and noble thing choosing to target their efforts on a few select ridings, rather than feeling the need to run a full slate.
At the end of the day, if the NDP can't look inward and recognize the deep flaws in its brand, its personnel, and the way it campaigns; if there isn't some serious bloodletting following this inexcusable failure, then maybe British Columbians are ready for a new progressive party.
BC and Alberta Elections Raise Serious Questions about Political Polls and the Corporate Media who Publish them
Good thing most people don’t listen to the polls. If they did, they just might throw in their cards and give up. The clearest indication yet that pollsters don’t know what they’re doing - or are driven by motives other than the accurate prediction of election outcomes - was the 2012 Alberta election. Polls indicated the young, upstart Wildrose Party (a.k.a. Wildrose Alliance Political Association) was ahead by a wide and startling margin. While the party is little known to many Canadians, it is clear that it derives its support from Alberta energy companies. Go figure.
Of course we all know what happened. The other party won, to everyone’s apparent surprise. The Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta has retained power in Alberta since 1971, and continued to do so in 2012 by defying the odds set against it by the pollsters who claimed their surveys showed voting Albertans no longer backed the venerable party.
Who knew, right? Wrong. Canadians now live in a political environment so illusionary that unknown pollsters are able to come from out of nowhere to try and persuade the public into believing any unsubstantiated claim. But do Canadians bite? Generally, no.
Heading into the 2013 B.C. election, voters are seeing this same theme. Suddenly, obscure pollsters often funded by unknown sources are constructing the narrative that the ailing B.C. Liberal Party checked itself into the ER, bandaged itself up, and is making a contest out of what was anything but.
Leading into the final weeks of the election, the provincial NDP showed strength and endurance - outpacing their dogged counterparts. Then came the paid advertisement featuring none other than the “Comeback Kid” herself, Premier Christy Clark, on the front page of the Sun Media-published 24 Hours newspaper - the Vancouver edition that is. It’s probably worth mentioning this is a company owned by that monolith back East known as Quebecor Inc., which in case you haven’t been following, wants its conservative-slanted news channel on the docket of must-see TV for Canadians.
The headline reads, “Poll: Christy Clark stands tall in debate,” and shows our glowing leader all smiles, arm raised in a triumphant pose. Critical and discerning B.C. voters might ask, “How can a poll say Clark stood tall in the recent televised debate?” Did the people who were polled unanimously suggest this by using these exact words? Mysterious to say the least.
Back in 2004, respected pollster Angus Reid suggested there was a problem in the way polls were conducted. While it’s now 2013, Reid’s concerns should raise the hairs on any honest voter’s neck.
In two Tyee articles, Reid suggests there are too many non-media funded polls being conducted. In addition to this, he says many polling firms don’t say how many people refused to participate in the survey, whether conducted by phone or online. He goes on to explain that polls conducted in provincial elections, which are more regional in nature and see a smaller sample size, allow for as much as a 20-point margin of error.
While Reid toots his own horn in the Tyee articles, saying his method has allowed for his polls to be more accurate than his competitors, if this is a fact then what’s the problem? And the facts do demonstrate that Reid, now an executive director at Vision Critical, is much more right more of the time than many other pollsters out there. So what he has to say matters. And it resonates no less today than it did eight or nine years ago.
Case in point: polls closing out the last working week leading into the BC election show wide discrepancies. An Angus Reid poll has the NDP out in front by a nine-point margin after going from 20 points ahead down to six, then back to nine. Meanwhile, a poll commissioned by the Victoria Times-Colonist says the NDP lead has “narrowed to just four percentage points.”
It’s worth highlighting the fact that the current publisher of the Times-Colonist is none other than ex-Hollinger executive David Radler. For those who thought he was locked up somewhere in jail for participating in fraud along with his former pal and partner, Conrad Black, Radler actually now enjoys a leadership role at Glacier Newspaper Group. Radler tattled on Black and got off. And now he’s busy commissioning polls from unknown firms (in this case it’s Oraclepoll Research Ltd. - check out their website and decide for yourself if you’d trust them), suggesting the Liberals are in the midst of a miraculous comeback. Huh? Did we British Columbians miss something?
The B.C. election supposedly became a “horse race” when Adrian Dix said he opposed a B.C. Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, which would see a dramatic increase in Alberta bitumen departing from the Lower Mainland where tankers park in the waters off Georgia Straight one after another to fuel up. In a laughable article from the Edmonton Journal (where we see a good example of journo-speak, i.e. the word “some”, as in “some pundits,” is used to somehow create credibility), the writer indicates that Dix’s flip-flop might cost him the election. Yet, a poll from Justason Market Intelligence says the exact opposite, using hard facts rather than the term, “some pundits.” Who are these pundits anyway?
According to Justason, 35 per cent of B.C. voters polled supported Dix more after his opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. This is compared to just 24 per cent who were less supportive. Many large newspapers would have B.C. voters believe otherwise. It’s a good thing voters aren’t as stupid as pollsters apparently believe they are.
You’d think the media and the polling firms would take a hint and start serving the public they say they serve, rather than corporate interests that only work to their shareholders’ benefit. It’s time newspapers and polling firms do proper investigative work to show the truth to voters, and not deceive them. Newspaper people bemoan their industry as dying because of the Internet. This couldn’t be more wrong. Newspapers, and legacy news outlets in general, are losing ground to more innovative online news agencies because they no longer serve the public’s best interest.
It remains to be seen what happens in Tuesday’s provincial election, but if it’s anything more than a close finish between the NDP and Liberals, then our pollsters and corporate media will have some serious explaining to do.
John King was a reporter and editor at a number of newspapers in Western Canada. Today he runs a design firm.
From Common Sense Canadian contributor Kevin Logan comes this multimedia examination of where Premier Christy Clark and the BC Liberal Party really stand on proposed oil pipelines and tankers in BC.
Christy Clark and the BC Liberals have made a lot of bold claims about their position on pipelines proposed for British Columbia.
However, what they have neglected to tell British Columbians is that their government has entered into binding agreements that ensure the success of pipelines from Alberta to the BC Coast.
Everyone knows there has been a lot of politics surrounding pipeline developments in British Columbia, but very few are aware of the longstanding agreements, established by the BC Liberals, that ensure the success of the proposed pipelines and have thoroughly tied the hands of all BC Stakeholders leaving them with no capacity to actually impact the processes that will ensure the success of these developments.
The Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) and New West Partnership Agreement (NWPA) which it developed into absolutely confirm that no level of government in British Columbia can block pipeline development. Nor can they impede trade through the province or create any obstacle, whatsoever, that prevents pipelines from Alberta from reaching BC's tidal waters. Doing so would result in fines of up to 5 million dollars per infraction.
The June 2010 "Equivalency Agreement", done in secret by the BC Liberals with the Harper Conservative Government - and against the letter of the law - forfeits BC's ability to review, assess and decide on these pipeline proposals which threaten to transform the province as we know it.
The video presents these documents, and exposes the BC Liberal election posturing on pipelines as hollow and meaningless. These concepts, backed by government documentation, have been published online and are readily available for anyone interested.
Yet Christy Clark has never publicly acknowledged their existence. More importantly, she has also positioned her party for re-election on claims that run counter to these indisputable facts.
In fact, the material contained in the above video proves that Christy Clark's claims that she can block or prevent these pipeline proposals, based on her "tough NEW stance" and "5 conditions" is without merit, not based in reality and ignores the existence of these agreements of her government's own making.
The video closes with live footage from the most recent Estimates debate for the Ministry of Energy, where the Minister of Everything, Rich Coleman, is on tape discussing his government's "non-disclosure agreements" with the world's largest oil companies.
This fact has gone unreported and exposes the bold hypocrisy of the BC Liberal campaign, which has had the audacity to broadly claim the BC NDP is "concealing" their position on these pipeline developments.
There is not one mainstream media report that covers the "non-disclosure agreements" the world's largest oil and gas companies have with the BC Liberals, even though the minister responsible has made their existence known in the public debate contained in this video.
Stories on these topics (see below) have been published on the internet for over a year, yet no one has refuted them, and Christy Clark has never publicly acknowledged their existence.
They impact all British Columbians and are crucial to our future.
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.
We may never know what inspired NDP Leader Adrian Dix to breathe life into a moribund B.C. Liberal election campaign by reversing his position on the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. But it is clear from the first leaders debate Friday that the issue has become a political millstone for the New Democrats.
It has dominated the campaign since Mr. Dix stunned many on Earth Day by declaring his opposition to Kinder Morgan’s plans. This, after saying as recently as two weeks earlier that as a “matter of principle” he wouldn’t prejudge the project before the company had a chance to submit its complete proposal to the National Energy Board later this year.
The NDP Leader has maintained that his thinking on the matter evolved over time. He has said the tipping point was when he learned that Kinder Morgan was planning to increase the amount of oil it was going to move through the new pipeline. At his Earth Day announcement, Mr. Dix said he did not believe that Vancouver should become a major oil-exporting port, something he says would happen if the pipeline expansion went ahead. The number of big oil tankers entering the port would increase several fold, he has maintained, increasing the likelihood of a spill.
Not surprisingly, the subject was highlighted in the first half hour of the leaders debate on the Bill Good radio show on CKNW. Liberal Leader Christy Clark used her opponent’s about-face to expose him as a flip-flopper. She criticized him for taking a position ahead of an environmental review process. After previously coming out against the Northern Gateway pipeline, Mr. Dix is being accused of being anti-business and anti-development, labels he has been fighting hard to shake off.
Ms. Clark is also now suggesting that Mr. Dix arrived at his position in January and “kept it concealed,” until the election campaign. “It makes you wonder what else Mr. Dix is concealing,” Ms. Clark said on the radio. Being in the desperate position that she is – 14 points behind in the polls with just two weeks left in the campaign – Ms. Clark is now trying to cast the NDP Leader’s announcement in a more sinister light.
On this point, the Liberal Leader is completely wrong.
Ms. Clark is basing her “secret agenda” line of attack on a recent story by Globe and Mail reporter Justine Hunter. Based on an interview with Mr. Dix, her piece said the NDP Leader made up his mind to oppose the project after Kinder Morgan “signalled its expanded ambitions for the project in January.” Ms. Clark is suggesting that implies January is when Mr. Dix made his decision when, in fact, it only suggests he made up his mind “some time after” the beginning of the year.
Despite Ms. Hunter’s best efforts during the interview, Mr. Dix steadfastly refused to say when, exactly, he did decide to change his position. That leaves us to guess as to his motive and one of the best deductions making the rounds is that the NDP saw recent polling numbers that suggested the party was vulnerable in a number of key ridings because of the Green Party – something the New Democrats felt they could undercut by taking a position against Kinder Morgan.
But while it may have helped fend off the Greens, the NDP’s new policy has almost certainly helped Ms. Clark and the Liberals.
Whether you agree with Mr. Dix’s stand or not, declaring a project dead ahead of an environmental review process is not very statesmanlike. It looks amateurish, especially against the backdrop of a previously held – and much-ballyhooed – matter of principle position.
It allows the Liberals to cast the New Democrats as anti-development. It allows the Liberals to ask in the heat of an election campaign: How does an NDP government intend to pay for all its campaign promises if it is going to oppose every development project that environmental groups do not like? Has Mr. Dix forgotten about the tens of thousands of jobs the resource sector creates in B.C.? Does he not believe in due process?
Read this story from Jeff Nagel at theSurrey Leader on a possible re-routing of the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion to the Lower Mainland that could satisfy the NDP's recently-stated concerns about turning Vancouver into a major oil port. (April 24, 2013 - updated April 26)
Imagine a twinned Kinder Morgan pipeline that sends oil sands crude not to its current Burnaby export terminal but to one in northwestern Washington instead.
It would still mean hundreds more tankers carrying much more crude oil through the Gulf Islands, past Victoria and up the west side of Vancouver Island.
But NDP leader Adrian Dix would have kept his Earth Day election promise not to transform Vancouver harbour into "a major oil port."
NDP energy critic John Horgan did not rule out that scenario in a Black Press interview Wednesday, going so far as to say he met Kinder Morgan officials the previous day and anticipates their proposal could evolve ahead of a formal application later this year to the National Energy Board.
"It wouldn't be a challenge in Burrard Inlet any longer," Horgan said, when asked if oil flowing to a different terminal would still be problematic for the NDP.
"There are a number of options they may pursue," Horgan said, adding he can't pre-judge them because the company has not yet made them public.
"I'll leave it to them to put forward the options they consider viable," he said. "The current proposal is a massive expansion of export capacity in Burrard Inlet. So I'm hopeful Kinder Morgan will review our leader's position and act accordingly."
Kinder Morgan officials didn't comment on the idea of a new terminal this week.
A statement posted online in February says the company has considered terminal alternatives but has yet to find an option compelling enough to deviate from the existing corridor.
Horgan was also asked if a less sensitive terminal might be Deltaport or even Fraser Surrey Docks, which could accept larger ships if the Massey Tunnel is replaced with a bridge.
"Deltaport would be a more likely scenario [than Fraser Surrey Docks for Kinder Morgan to propose]. But again those are options for the proponent."
He cautioned any twinning of the pipeline would be "transformative change" that would present "a challenge and a problem for us" but that it would be up to Kinder Morgan to bring back proposals that are defensible and in the public interest.
The Trans Mountain pipeline forks at Abbotsford, with a spur running south to Cherry Point refineries in northwest Washington, where tankers already bring oil from Alaska.
Running the new pipeline south at Sumas to a new export port in Washington would bypass the most heavily populated parts of the Lower Mainland that pose major construction challenges.
Asked if the risks of an oil spill on land along the pipeline route is a concern, Horgan said Trans Mountain has an existing right-of-way that's "been there for 50 years with more or less unblemlished activity."
As for more tankers passing Vancouver Island, the MLA for Juan de Fuca noted several hundred tankers a year already sail through U.S. waters bringing Alaskan crude to Washington refineries.
"Tankers are going past my constituency right now to Cherry Point," he said.
An NDP-approved Kinder Morgan twinning would avoid at least one oil pipeline confrontation with Ottawa and could see the province rake in more royalties.
B.C. Green Party Leader Jane Sterk accused the NDP of trying to "have their cake and eat it too" by appealing to urban environmentalists while leaving the door open to a twinned Trans Mountain pipeline with a different backdoor outlet.
"Our voters and the voters of the NDP who care about the environment and have an understanding of climate change would say that's a betrayal," Sterk said.
Anti-oil sands campaigner Ben West said a twinning with a new terminal would still endanger the coastal environment and the atmosphere.
"Tankers moving through the Salish Sea means risk for the Salish Sea, whether you put a terminal at Point A or Point B."
While the Greens oppose both Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipeline projects, the NDP would subject Kinder Morgan to a made-in-B.C. environmental review, rather than delegating the decision to Ottawa.
Adrian Dix says he made up his mind to oppose the Kinder Morgan pipeline proposal after the company signalled its expanded ambitions for the project in January. But until the moment that he stepped up to the podium at a carefully staged policy announcement on the banks of the North Thompson River on Monday, the BC NDP Leader publicly maintained his party would take no position until the proponents submit their formal application to the national review panel.
“I thought Earth Day was a good day to say clearly what I thought – we have no intention of seeing Metro Vancouver become a major oil tanker centre,” Mr. Dix said in an interview Tuesday.
Mr. Dix said he wasn’t rushed into the decision: “It’s been an important question for some time, there wasn’t any particular pressure other than the importance of the issue,” he said. “I reflected on it for a long time.”
But while he publicly sat on the fence, pressure was growing both inside and outside the party.
It was the first notable recalculation on Mr. Dix’s part in this campaign. It reflects what his candidates have been hearing on the doorsteps, as well as a potential clash among those who are expected to be a part of the next NDP caucus.
The New Democrats still bear the scars of past internal battles when resource development collided with environmental values: Names such as Six Mile Ranch, Carmanah and Clayoquot Sound resonate for those who recall the caucus and party divided.
Party insiders say the evolution of the Earth Day announcement speaks to the strong opposition to the oil pipeline proposal in vote-rich Metro Vancouver. Environmentalists were cranking up the heat, which could end up pushing voters towards the B.C. Green Party at the polls. The non-position on the politically explosive Kinder Morgan pipeline was simply not sustainable in a party that has a strong environmental wing.
That’s the external pressure. Internally, not taking a position on Kinder Morgan was also increasingly difficult to sustain. If Mr. Dix emerges as the victor on May 14, the decision on how to handle the pipeline question could easily have become Mr. Dix’s first caucus challenge.
Pollster Mario Canseco of Angus Reid Public Opinion said the shift reflects a concern about the Green vote. “If it is born out of a political calculation, that was the one,” he said. “This is a way to reconnect with the environmentally friendly base, including those who are flirting with the Greens.”
It took little time for leading environmentalists to cheer the NDP move – it was a signal they had been waiting for, a key factor deciding whether they would help the party in this election or hinder it as they did in 2009 over the carbon tax.
The B.C. NDP has taken a stand against the proposed Kinder Morgan oil pipeline expansion, saying an NDP government would throw up a roadblock to both of the plans to get Alberta oil to the coast for export.
“They are talking about an increase of five- or six-fold [in capacity] and I think that transforms Vancouver into a major oil export port,” Mr. Dix told reporters at a news conference held on the banks of the Thompson River in Kamloops – one of the junctions for the existing Kinder Morgan pipeline.
“I don’t think people in Vancouver see that as the right way to go, and I don’t think that’s the right way to go.”
Mr. Dix has already come out in opposition to the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline but until now, his party has been quiet on the Kinder Morgan proposal to twin an existing pipeline.
He has said an NDP government would pull out of a pact with Ottawa that cedes the environmental approval process to the federal government. Pipeline proponents would then be allowed to apply under a provincial review process.
But he told reporters the Kinder Morgan proposal has expanded in capacity and he would not support the increased oil tanker traffic that would be needed to carry that oil to Asian markets.
Check out this new song and music video from Vancouver artist CR Avery, produced by the Sierra Club of BC. According to the organization, which released the video on its youtube page this past weekend, "With riveting spoken word and striking images, CR Avery connects the dots between pipelines, oil tankers and climate change. He is unsparing in speaking truth to power about the companies leading us down the path toward climate catastrophe and the movement building against them."
The video and song, titled "Thief Behind the Mask", offer a poetic, uncompromising perspective on Texas-based pipeline giant Kinder Morgan's plans to turn Vancouver into a major shipping port for the Alberta Tar Sands, among other controversial, interconnected fossil fuel projects. The Sierra Club notes, "These pipelines would drive expansion of the tar sands and spike the impacts of global warming everywhere"
It's been another appallingly bad week for proponents of pipeline safety and new oil infrastructure. If the industry's woeful historical record - from the Exxon Valdez to BP's Gulf of Mexico catastrophe to Enbridge's trashing of the Kalamazoo - isn't enough to turn people off of new pipelines and tanker routes, this slew of recent spills should seal the deal.
These incidents couldn't have come at a worse time for the oil and pipeline industries, as US President Barack Obama prepares to announce his final decision in the coming months on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands to Port Arthur, Texas.
Let's review the record over the last week:
•This past friday, ExxonMobil's Pegasus Pipeline coated the streets of Mayflower, Arkansas with what CNN describes as a "smelly, asphalt-like crude" (i.e. diluted bitumen from the Alberta Tar Sands - the same kind the proposed Keystone XL would carry). These photos illustrate the effects of the spill on the sleepy Little Rock suburb - see the viral video captured by a local resident below.
• Enbridge was back at it again last week, with the fourth recorded spill in two months along its Norman Wells Pipeline through the Northwest Territories. The company has leaked an estimated million litres of oil since February, 2011, from this one pipeline, prompting the National Energy Board to order an engineering assessment of the chronically malfunctioning line.
• Meanwhile, back at the Alberta Tar Sands, Suncor was dealing with (and furiously downplaying) a leak from one of its massive waste ponds into the Athabasca River. This comes on the heels of a leaked memo to Conservative Resources Minister Joe Oliver, which acknowledged routine spillage from these ponds throughout the Tar Sands.
• Over the weekend, Michigan was hit with another spill - this time up to 500 gallons of hydraulic oil spilled into the Lansing Grand River during an equipment malfunction at a local utility.
• For those who would look to rail as an alternative to pipelines for transporting oil, there was the derailment last week of a CP Rail train, spilling an estimated 30,000 gallons of its crude cargo in western Minnesota.
This latest spate of spills should give pause to President Obama as he contemplates the Keystone XL - and to Canadian citizens and lawmakers debating several new pipeline proposals of our own.
It's time to put to rest the notion that oil spills are "accidents". They are, rather, a routine function of the business of extracting, transporting, and consuming oil - a good reason to spend our energy and resources on developing sustainable alternatives, not further entrenching our dependence on fossil fuels through new oil infrastructure.