Common Sense Canadian
 

Christy Clark’s LNG-fueled Fudge-it Budget…and the enabling NDP

Posted February 13, 2015 by Rafe Mair in Economics
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Christy Clark's LNG-fueled Fudge-it Budget

Premier Christy Clark made big election promises about managing BC’s economy (CP)

Welcome to Ruritania! Where is Peter Sellers when we need him?

We now have a legislature pretending to act like big kids do, leaders acting as if they really are in charge, a government out of control, and an opposition dedicated more to supporting the government than to raising issues.

Through the looking glass: Clark’s surreal throne speech

The Throne Speech was really quite funny when you think of it. The more LNG companies withdraw their undertaking, the more money we make. The fewer the LNG plants developed, the more jobs we’ll have. The worse our environmental record is in fracking for LNG, the less it matters.

If we go on having companies withdraw from LNG in BC, God knows how much money we’ll all make and how rich we’ll all become!

Thanks to Christy Clark, Alice in  Wonderland has become not a fairy tale, but a documentary!

LNG looked bad from the beginning

BG Group recently pulled the plug on BC LNG

BG Group is one of many companies to abandon ship on BC LNG

In looking back at the history of LNG in BC, one is reminded of Casey Stengel, managing “them amazing Mets”, in 1962, when he asked “can’t anyone here play this game?”

From the outset, Common Sense Canadian publisher Damien Gillis and I have raised questions about the viability of an LNG economy, given the global situation. Our concerns arose because we did simple research, largely using government and industry publications. We also were much helped by our resident economist, Erik Andersen.

It was abundantly apparent that there would be a glut of natural gas on the world market, that the United States, long so dependent upon the Middle East, was going to be self-sufficient and competing with us on exports, and that the cost of getting our LNG to China was – surprise, surprise – much higher than shipping gas from China to China.

We weren’t rocket scientists, just ordinary people like you who had learned early on how to read.

It didn’t take a crystal ball…

Our predictions steadily came true and if anything more quickly than we thought. Each time one came true, Christy Clark, and her poodle, Rich Coleman, had even more money rolling in to British Columbia. As time went on, and more companies withdrew their support, Christy Clark’s view of things got even rosier.

This ridiculous situation continued until the present day and I shudder in excitement thinking of all the money we’ll make when the last LNG company abandons us.

The Opposition that refuses to oppose

This article today, is not really about Christy Clark. It’s about leadership in general.

There is no nice way to say it – John Horgan, the NDP leader, has done an appalling job. Given the Christy Clark/Coleman saga, any decent opposition would have a field day.

It’s indeed ancient times but in my day the leaders were Dave Barrett and Bill Bennett, as unalike as chalk and cheese, yet each, in his way, hugely effective. Barrett was the master of the instant put down. On the government side, you were constantly on the defensive and, as I quickly learned, woe betide anyone who heckled him.

Bennett, always better informed, though no orator, was a plodder with the ability to come up with a killing comeback instantly.

They heartily disliked each other and for those who know them well, it is so sad to see them both seriously ill. Two great guys, two great leaders.

The point is that both sides of the legislature and those that supported them outside knew they had a leader. That may not sound like much but it is hugely important, especially for the opposition. The government, without an opposition ready to take over, is able to coast. For an opposition to be effective it must be a government in waiting, with policies ready to implement. That requires leadership that is both ready to lead and appears to be.

The NDP response to the Throne Speech, where the premier assured us again of the riches to come from vanishing LNG producers, was that the government talked too much about LNG and should move on to other subjects. This particularly came from Mike Farnworth, who ought to know better and that the point was that Clark has nothing else to talk about except failure.

Clark has nothing

Think about it for a second. Apart from the phoney LNG business, Clark has no policy whatsoever. They have nothing whatever concrete to offer in terms of the economy and, of course, are bankrupt on such matters as the environment. There is, therefore, a huge political vacuum.

It’s not brain surgery to realize that this is the spot the NDP step in. The first thing they do is to kill what remains of the LNG enthusiasm falsely raised by the Liberals. It’s sheer idiocy for them to proceed into the next election, just over two years away, allowing the Liberals to sail on promising another Umpty-dump billion dollars for LNG projects.

LNG threatens environment

Before moving on, one must observe that the NDP also has a huge obligation to expose the environmental concerns surrounding LNG – I dare say the majority of people in British Columbia have those concerns and in some areas, Squamish particularly, it is a very real impending threat. Their doughty city Council has had no encouragement whatsoever from the Opposition to plans that would materially and adversely alter the lifestyle of that lovely town and the surrounding area.

In order for the NDP to complete its apparent suicide commitment, it should stop shilly-shallying and just support the Liberals’ LNG policy, being that these foreign companies may do as they please as they are used to doing; cheat on their taxes and utterly ignore environmental concerns as just an avoidable nuisance.

Both parties either underestimate the public’s feeling about the environment or don’t give a damn.

Public hungry for change

I’ve watched that feeling develop over a good many years. Much of what people generally feel now was espoused by the NDP 40 years ago – their problem being that then their opposition was more whining than practical. Moreover, it is always very difficult to be ahead of public opinion.

The public has dramatically changed. Even when I was in government it would be unthinkable to try to stop an interprovincial pipeline, let alone two of them. Alberta was looked upon as a pal to be envied.

But, in 25 years, the world has dramatically changed, as we all know. The question of fossil fuels has become first a very serious scientific one and then, logically, a political one. Global warming is for real and the vast majority of the public knows that – the exception being some politicians.

We’ve reached the position, then, where the public is far, far ahead of its political masters who would have us believe that the environmentalist is against all development and wants to crawl into a cave, chew on the leg of a sabre-toothed tiger and spend the rest of his life drawing pictures on walls.

I consider myself an environmentalist. So does Damien and a great many other people I know, who not that long ago wouldn’t have considered supporting the NDP and wouldn’t today if it weren’t for the Clark/Coleman Neanderthals.

Making a living and enjoying a living

The growing concern, which has enveloped all of us, is for the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the surroundings in which we live. We’re convinced that making a living and enjoying a living are compatible ambitions. Of course it requires some sacrifice – anything of importance does.

What environmentalists have done, however, is to annoy the hell out of the establishment because we no longer believe a word it says. This isn’t cynicism – it’s bitter experience. One only has to look at the Woodfibre LNG’s Indonesian owner and their tax-cheating overseas, to say nothing of their wanton environmental destruction, to realize that when they tell us that they will be good corporate citizens, care for our environment and pay their taxes that they’re lying through their teeth.

The trust just isn’t there

This is a huge societal dichotomy, no doubt about that. There was a time when most of us looked at the captains of industry and political leaders and thought that deep down they really cared about the people and the environment in which we live.

Experience has taught us that this is a load of crap. We’ve  learned about hugely expensive internal and external public relations exercises devoted simply to deceiving the public.

Naively, we expected our politicians to reflect our feelings but have learned that they reflect only the interests of the establishment. As it always has, money talks.

Out of all of this comes a sense of keen frustration.

I no longer have the faintest hope that the Liberals will do anything but reflect those who invest money in them.

Where does that leave us?

I had hoped that John Horgan would be able to offer the kind of leadership the public could listen to and perhaps follow. Unfortunately this has not proved to be the case.

I’ve expressed hopes for the Green Party, however I am realistic enough to know that they won’t be forming a government in the near future.

It’s obvious that choices are severely limited and that if the Throne Speech proves nothing else, it’s that the government is bankrupt, lacking a semblance of moral compass, and the opposition are useless.

If the Green Party has nothing else going for it, at least the alternatives are far worse.

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About the Author

Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at rafeonline.com.

14 Comments


  1.  

    Good one, Rafe. I have been an NDP supporter since the Dave Barrett days, and I’m so sad to see what has become of that party over the past few years. I agree that they just haven’t been able to find a good leader in a couple of decades, and if I had my druthers, Bob Simpson would be the NDP party leader. Now there’s a guy with integrity.

    As things now stand, I think I’ll be voting Green for the first time in my life. I know that it will be a long time before they’ll be able to form the government, but we have to start somewhere, don’t we?




  2.  
    G. Barry Stewart

    Rafe, it’s so good to see that you’ve rallied from your health concerns of a few years ago and have maintained your excellent analytical skills — and fiery writing!

    I am waiting… hoping… for a dynamic push-back from John Horgan and his party but have only seen sniffs of it so far. The BC Liberal machine is doing a fine (but not admirable) job of massaging the media and keeping legislative sessions short and rare. The opposition will have to build its own soapboxes.




  3.  
    Walker Evans

    All good comments as is the article. No wonder 40% of the electorate don’t vote. There is no one worth voting for. The rest are either diehard Libs or NDP and the strategic voters who just vote to kick the bums out every 4 years. It’s been like this for as long as I can remember. You say well what about reforming the system with proportional representation or something similar. They say no. That would never achieve a majority and would put the government in a straitjacket. Nothing would get done. (At this point I’m thinking nothing would be a lot better than what they’ve been doing.)
    It’s a mess. If anyone has a solution I’d love to hear it. Christy Clark is the leader of the most appalling incompetent government we’ve ever seen….and that’s saying something.
    De- mockery. See. ?




    •  
      Hugh

      My theory is that we are locked in a faulty mindset, that being the supposed need for endless economic growth.

      The reason behind this, I think, has to do with how money is created: as debt with interest. There has to be endless economic growth to sustain this system, which leaves us with endlessly growing debt loads.

      The BC Government is desperate for endless GDP growth, in order to keep the system from collapse. So they are banking on LNG exports, because to them it has the appearance of economic growth.

      The problem being that exporting LNG from BC doesn’t make any economic or environmental sense.

      We need to get rid of the idea of endless growth; it seems to be at the root of many problems we are facing.




  4.  
    John's Aghast

    Hugh, whether or not it uses more energy is inconsequential! Energy has to be ‘transportable’, hence LNG or ‘dilbit’. As far as I know they have yet not discovered a way to ship Hydro energy. You can bet your boots ‘they’ have their eye on our water though.
    So, if the price for energy is higher than the cost, ‘they’ will make a profit. If it is lower then we, the taxpayer will subsidize it. As long as Chrispy will facilitate it.
    The reason the Australians are still in Chrispy’s game is because the Aussie’s insist on a royalty whereas we don’t.




  5.  
    Hugh

    Fracking, pumping, liquefying, then shipping the stuff 7,000 km to Asia.

    This all uses a lot of energy.

    Does the production and shipping of LNG use more energy than what they get out of it, I wonder.




    •  
      Terry

      Liquifying and shipping Natural Gas uses roughly 1/3 of the energy … The hidden agenda is that BC residents end up being be forced to pay 2/3 global price or “freeze in the dark”, if natural gas from BC was thrown open to the free market … It is the duty of any corporation to maximize profits for their shareholders/owners.




    •  
      Ron Wilton

      Interesting question Hugh, I have often wondered the same about the oil/tar sands production costs.

      Just one of those giant dump trucks, the Caterpillar 797 burns 114 litres of diesel per hour and they operate virtually 24 hours per day, 365 days a year.

      That is almost one million litres per truck per year.

      One tire weighs six tons and they last about one year and each truck has six of them.

      That’s a lot of rubber.

      I do not know how many of those trucks operate in the sands but I would bet there many hundreds if not thousands.

      Each barrel of crude apparently can yield as much as 12 gallons of diesel after refining so I imagine one refinery alone would be required to keep these trucks operating.

      That is a staggering input of resources to operate and maintain just these trucks and one can only imagine the other costs of other equipment and processes without even considering the environmental or social costs, but apparently it is a profitable business even at today’s low crude prices.




  6.  
    Sidney

    I recall my Mom listening to the radio back in the early 60s, as she did everyday; I remember hearing on the news about the local mayor in town being charged for a land deal that was shady. Politicians and corruption, self-serving under the pretense of giving of themselves for the benefit of the public, what a wagon load of manure, the politicians that is!

    Politics the art of deceit and illusion.

    I felt sad when I called out the NDP a couple of years back and was verbally pummeled by die hard NDP supporters, I was a loyal NDP member, until I realized: they don’t care.




  7.  
    Jeffee

    I’ve often thought that anyone wanting to assist the BC Liberal Government should give money to the NDP, lest a real opposition should appear to supplant them. IT seems like they are happy with their seats at the public trough sycophantic proximity to power, patiently cementing their pensions and enjoying esteem without merit.

    They are “the nice ones” who are abetting our province’s trip to hell.




  8.  
    Ron Wilton

    These constant rounds of snake oil salesmen, whether peddling LNG dreams, smart meters, P3’s, and myriad other pie in the sky get rich quick schemes, seem to have found their marks in provincial politicians and BC is fertile ground for them.

    In years gone by when the locals realized they were being scammed they would tar and feather the scoundrels and ride them out of town on a rail, but now the townsfolk don’t seem able to do anything but stand around helplessly and let the scoundrels play their shell games with impunity.




  9.  
    Star

    I remember John Horgan’s comments in Vaughn Palmer’s Voices of BC interview with Ben Parfitt and Oliver Brandes, ‘Water Matters’. Then NDP Energy Critic, John Horgan said “The Peace country’s experiencing a 50 year drought. A record reduction in the amount of water they have available for agriculture and other uses. Should we be using that water for the oil and GAS sector? That’s a Campbell approach. I don’t believe that’s the approach British Columbians would want to see.” John Horgan’s tune sure has changed.

    Would love Vaugh Palmer to revisit the WATER issue with John Horgan again. After all, British Columbians have identified ‘water’ as our most valued resource and important to protect.

    Excellent interview and worth rewatching (John Horgan is at the beginning) … https://vimeo.com/17221139?from=facebook





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